Sexual Violence policy approved by Laurier Governors

Photo by Jess Dik
File Photo by Jess Dik

The recently proposed Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy and Students Procedure was approved by Wilfrid Laurier University’s Board of Governors on Nov. 24.

The document outlines the university’s policy of not tolerating gendered or sexual violence, as well as the mechanisms in place for the university to handle cases of gendered and sexual violence, from reporting to investigation and resolution.

Students who have experienced gendered and/or sexual violence have a range of options available to them, from making a disclosure, which is telling another member of the university community about their experience, to a report, which must be filed with either Special Constables Services or one of a list of other individuals qualified to generate a record of an incident, appropriate even in cases such as vandalism when the perpetrator is not known.

The most involved option for students who have experienced gendered and/or sexual violence is to file an official complaint.

“An official complaint, no matter what, will engage an alleged perpetrator. It will mean that they see the complaint against them,” said Lynn Kane, manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support.

“It will likely mean, or could possibly mean, that there’s an investigation, but they become a part of that process and through that process, may be subject to sanctions or discipline.”

Students who wish to submit official complaints may reach out for support on the Waterloo campus from the Sexual Violence Support Advocate and alternatively, alleged perpetrators may receive support in drafting their response from the Office of the Dean of Students.

The wording and drafting of these documents should be taken seriously, as though they are part of the university’s internal process, they may have further future implications in civil or criminal proceedings.

“The consequences of the act in the internal system look like sanctions, suspension, expulsion, things like that, which are different from the consequences that exist in the criminal justice system,” said Kane.

“Where it could have an effect on the other is if someone went through a criminal process at the same time, it’s possible that there’s sanctions put in place through the criminal process that effect sort of campus life.

So let’s say that there’s a restriction, [such as] a peace bond, so people couldn’t come within a certain distance of each other, so that would affect campus sanctions that would have to be put in place here as well. And then another way that they could interact is that there’s always the potential with someone going through a criminal process that the courts could subpoena notes from the internal process.”

Afterward, the dean of students will need to ascertain whether a voluntary resolution of the official complaint can be reached, or whether a formal resolution, likely involving an investigation, is needed.

Following a decision, both the complainant and the respondent have the opportunity to appeal the decision should they feel that the university did not properly undertake the internal procedures.

Though questions have been raised regarding the presence of an opportunity for cross-examination by both the appellant and the university on all witnesses, this is mandated by law, and as such the university has included certain testimonial aides such as the option for witnesses to sit behind a screen, or deliver their message via video from another room.

“Cross-examination can be a really traumatic process and so these aides can help mitigate some of that harm and reduce some of that harm that could take place,” said Kane.

“Another thing too that it’s important to make clear, is that it’s also possible not to participate as a witness in the appeal process.”

While a policy such as this must be reviewed on a minimum of every three years, the term is flexible and will be, in reality, monitored following its implementation and reviewed on an as-needed basis.

The policy is available for viewing in its entirety online, in addition to a FAQ regarding the policy and procedure published by the Gendered Violence Task Force.

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