Following delay, University shares proposed revisions to sexual violence policy

Amendments focus on confidentiality of disclosures, new amnesty policy

The consultation for the policy was deferred from the spring because of COVID-19.

After the updated policy came under fire last October, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Task Force announced proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence Involving Queen’s University Students on July 21.

“[T]he Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Task Force was asked to consider amendments to the notification procedure associated with Section 8.8 of the Policy on Sexual Violence Involving Queen’s University Students, and any other incidental changes relating to disclosures of sexual violence,” Teri Shearer, deputy provost (academic operations and inclusion), wrote in a statement shared to Facebook.

The consultation for the policy was deferred from the spring because of COVID-19 to ensure all faculty, staff, and students would be able to reflect on the amendments and provide feedback.

READ MORE: University suspends sexual violence disclosure requirement

Shearer said members of the task force considered several options to ensure the policy aligned with the University’s commitment to supporting individuals who have experienced sexual violence, and to ensure students have timely and accurate information regarding available support services, academic accommodations, and options for formally reporting the incident.

The proposed revisions have been reviewed by the University’s senior leadership team, according to Shearer.

The task force developed revisions to the policy regarding confidentiality of disclosures, the disclosure process, and staff training requirements.

The proposed amendments reflect a commitment to maintaining the confidentiality of disclosures whenever possible for students who choose to disclose incidents of sexual violence.

READ MORE: University will review sexual violence policy feedback this month

A statement on the importance of confidentiality would be included in the updated policy, along with an outline of the limits. These limits include cases where information may need to be shared to address a safety risk, where employees are obliged by law to share the information, or where the incident occurred in a University residence.

Regarding the disclosure process, the proposed revisions would require University employees who aren’t health care providers to notify the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator of a disclosure.

The policy wouldn't require them to identify the student unless given permission to do so, or where the limits of confidentiality apply.

Employees who are health providers would continue to comply with the rules of their specific professions.

Though the task force considered removing the notification requirement, it determined that would place the responsibility of responding to a disclosure of sexual violence solely on the employee who receives it.

While the task force recommended training on the policy be mandatory for all employees, it acknowledged implementing mandatory training would require a longer revision period.

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

To update the confidentiality and disclosure sections of the policy in a time-sensitive manner, the policy currently states training is strongly encouraged. The task force is recommending the senior leadership team make training mandatory as soon as possible.

Through training, employees would be taught how the policy applies to them, how to respect confidentiality, when confidentiality cannot be maintained, and what steps to take if there’s a safety risk to the disclosing student or the Queen’s community.

READ MORE: Professors say new sexual violence policy could put students at risk

As the University is unable to guarantee all staff are sufficiently trained to respond appropriately to disclosures, the task force believes contacting the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator would ensure the employee who receives a disclosure is provided with guidance on how to respond to the student and is advised of accurate information about sexual violence support services.

The proposed revisions also include the addition of an amnesty statement to Section 9.1 of the policy.

This addition formalizes the University’s current practice of exempting students who were drinking or using illegal substances at the time they experienced sexual violence from disciplinary action by the University for alcohol or substance use violations of Queen’s non-academic misconduct policies.

The amnesty statement was created in response to feedback from the Queen’s community and members of the task force, who believe it will mitigate a possible deterrent to disclosing an incident of sexual violence.

Individuals interested in providing feedback on the proposed revisions are encouraged to review the documents and contact by Oct. 1.

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