Sexual assault policy still inaccessible

The University’s release of a temporary sexual assault protocol was a good move, but the policy needs to be heavily advertised and made readily accessible.

The interim policy for sexual assault on campus, publicly released on Jan. 16, will be used until the end of the academic year, when a permanent procedure will be released. The policy consolidates all of the resources and information survivors may need in the event of a sexual assault.

How the school will conduct assault investigations remains undetermined.

It’s unfortunate that the policy’s development was only expedited after media coverage shamed the administration for lacking one. But the University made the right call in moving quickly to release a short-term policy to bridge the gap.

Enacting an interim measure is essential in ensuring survivors don’t continue to go without guidance, and to assess what changes should be included in a permanent policy.

The temporary protocol document remains largely inaccessible, though. Save for an article in the Queen’s Gazette — in addition to coverage in the Journal and the Toronto Star — the policy hasn’t been advertised by the University.

Finding a copy of the policy without the direct link requires navigating Queen’s maze of a website. The University made a one-page mind map that’s much more straightforward than the 12-page policy document — but it’s even harder to find online.

The entire document is overwhelming for anyone to read, let alone a traumatized survivor, and the mind map doesn’t provide enough detail about the procedures.

Physical copies of the policy need to be made available around campus — particularly to first-years in residences, where numerous assaults are alleged to have occurred in recent years.

Important inclusions in the policy are the alternative housing and class schedule options for both alleged assailants and survivors during an investigation. It’s critical that when survivors go through the non-criminal system, they don’t bear the brunt of altering their housing and class situation to fulfill “no contact”.

The policy’s inclusion of employees at Queen’s — not only as potential assailants, but survivors — is also a much-needed addition.

It’s good the University is exploring options for anonymous suggestions in the development of the policy, as they should provide as many avenues as possible for students to submit feedback.

The protocol is a good starting point. As it evolves into a comprehensive policy, public consultation and ample input from survivors should be taken into serious consideration.

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