Seven formal complaints of sexual violence filed last year, internal report reveals

Queen’s looks to implement more frequent sexual violence surveys on campus

125 students contacted the Sexual Violence and Prevention Centre in 2019-20.

According to Queen’s annual Sexual Violence Report, seven formal complaints of sexual violence were made in 2019-20, down from 19 the previous year.

Released on April 13, the report contained information from the reporting period of Sept. 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020. It revealed seven formal complaints—written allegations made to invoke the processes of the Sexual Violence Policy—of sexual violence were submitted in this period.

The complaints included eight occurrences of sexual assault and three occurrences of sexual harassment. As these numbers exceed the number of formal complaints, some complaints reported both metrics of violence.

According to the report, “a range of outcomes” were pursued from the complaints, including educational or community focused activities, no-contact directives, restorative processes, losses of privilege, suspensions, and notices of prohibition from campus. 

Students can choose to make a disclosure, or a non-formal sharing of information, rather than submit a formal complaint, and still receive support, accommodations, or other resources from the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator (SVPRC).

During the 2019-20 reporting period, 125 students contacted the SVPRC for information, support and services. Twenty-seven of these students received accommodation from the University, including academic considerations, support for academic appeals, exam deferrals, alternate housing assignments, and alternate class schedules.

The number of formal complaints decreased in comparison to last year; however, the reporting period was shorter than previous years following direction from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to change reporting deadlines. The reporting period for 2020-21 will be May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021.

The 2018-19 Sexual Violence Report revealed 19 formal complaints were made in the reporting period from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019. The complaints encompassed nine instances of sexual assault, 11 instances of sexual harassment, one instance of indecent exposure, and one instance of voyeurism.

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In the 2018-19 reporting period, 133 students contacted the SVPRC for support and 31 were given some form of accommodation from the University.

The rate of complaints and disclosures may also have been affected by recent changes to the Policy on Sexual Violence Involving Queen’s University Students. The policy, first approved by the Board of Trustees on December 2, 2016, was revised and approved on May 10, 2019.

The revised policy changed the confidentiality of complaints, requiring non-healthcare university employees to immediately notify the SVPRC of disclosures and provide them with the student’s name, email address and student number.

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In October 2019, the University suspended this disclosure requirement. A consultation on the policy was underway and set to be completed at the end of March, but was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The process of writing a new policy has been deferred until further notice.

The policy added a new clause entitled “Alternative Resolutions,” allowing the University to informally resolve complaints in certain circumstances, with or without the agreement of the complainant.

The University’s evaluation of the Policy is ongoing and largely involves the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response task force, co-chaired by Ann Tierney, vice provost and dean of student affairs, and Stephanie Simpson, associate vice principal (human rights, equity and inclusion). The task force met five times during the 2019-20 academic year.

According to the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey results released in February, Queen’s was second-highest in Ontario for rates of sexual harassment, and fourth for sexual assault. The Task Force is currently reviewing data from the survey and from the National Collegiate Health Assessment (NCHA) survey. 

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The Task Force is also reviewing the federal government’s report about gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses in Canada, entitled Courage to Act: Developing a National Framework to Address and Prevent Gender-Based Violence, that was released on September 11, 2019. The Task Force will use the report’s recommendations in their analysis of sexual violence at Queen’s. 

“The Task Force has discussed and will continue to discuss a number of reports/documents, including Courage to Act, as part of the on-going discussions about sexual violence,” Tierney and Simpson wrote in a statement to The Journal. “This includes looking at the recommendations in the Courage to Act report and assessing our programs and services against those recommendations.”

The Task Force is also discussing the possibility of a regular, sector-wide survey similar to the NCHA Student Health and Wellness Survey to maintain more recent information regarding sexual violence on campus.

“Queen’s is committed to transparency with respect to incidents of sexual violence, and for this reason has an interest in timely data and statistics which are relevant to our campus community,” Tierney and Simpson wrote. “Sexual violence is a sector wide issue where a broader and more systematic approach to ongoing campus climate surveys would be an ideal strategy.”

The survey would be conducted in consultation with Institutional Research and Planning, similar to other campus-wide surveys. According to Tierney and Simpson, if such a survey isn’t adopted in a “desired timeline,” the Task Force will review other survey options to recommend an ideal approach.

“We recognize even the best survey data provides only part of the overall picture, but it is important information for our community and can provide meaningful feedback that we can use to enhance our services and programs.” possible survey options and recommend an ideal approach," Tierney and Simpson wrote.

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