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What to Know: The Ins & Outs of Laurier’s New Sexual Assault Policy

 In North America, one in every four girls is sexually assaulted within their lifetime and one in every five of those girls is sexually assaulted on a college campus. With those shocking statistics, it makes sense for universities to have a sexual assault policy, but the shocking reality is that many schools did not as of last year, leaving survivors of gendered violence with nowhere to turn.  Within the past year, we have seen major changes with legislation relating to sexual assault, specifically with the passing of Bill 132 in September; The Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan’s goal being that it will make institutions and workplaces more safe and supportive places. Laurier’s Policy has been in the works since 2014 when a group of Brantford campus students realized we did not have a policy. This procedure has been drafted since then, and will be presented to the Board of Governors for approval on November 24.  It was recently focused on in an article featured in Laurier’s very own Cord Newspaper; you can find that link here.

Laurier’s Policy is a procedure and policy that is based on student wellbeing and education. The policy provides students with a way to report incidents without having to go to law enforcement and deal with the legality of it. It is also a way for Laurier students to have access to on and off campus support systems, and an advisor. You can find a version of the full policy here

As a female writer for Her Campus Laurier, I tend to focus a lot of my writing on sex, and the ins and outs of relationships, but I thought I would try to focus on the darker yet realistic facts of sexual assault and what our school’s new policy is going to offer. As a Laurier student, I believe it is important to know what procedures our school has and what to do if you are put in a situation where you may need to reach out. When I began looking, I noticed that the product that many faculty and students have worked so hard on was a policy that truly went right over my head, and figured I can not be alone in this confusion, so with that I set out on a mission. Figure out what it means, what resources are available, and get people talking. I began my mission by reaching out to both our President of Laurier’s Student Union, Tyler Van Herzele, and Lynn Kane, who is part of the Gendered Violence Prevention and Support team within Laurier’s Diversity and Equity office.

Can you explain this policy and what it means in the simplest terms?

Tyler:  “The origin of the policy derives from a number of different areas; one being the legislation Bill 132, which passed last year and is now mandatory for universities to have this policy against sexual assault/violence. This one, though, [the policy] is for the students; in the basic terms this is how students who would like to formalize [the sexual assault] either with a disclosure or formal investigation. This is a tool for them to go through the process in the clearest, and easiest way possible, and I know reading the policy it may not seem that way but this policy is strictly for students at this point which is great to know—it’s literally done so students have an outlet.”

Lynn:  “So, the policy is Laurier’s first stand-alone gendered and sexual violence policy that applies to all Laurier students. It’s a two part-er in that it is a policy with commitment statements and principles and beliefs about gendered and sexual violence, and then it’s also the procedure for when someone either discloses, reports, or files a complaint.”

How does our new policy differ from the law?

Tyler:  “From my understanding, the university is very different than say, dealing with the regional police – in a way that we do not have obligations at certain levels to escalate the situation, whereas the law does as they are obligated to move it forward with a trial, or procedure of their own. This was designed in a way that allows students to be in full control of their disclosure along their path. A lot of survivors do not want to tell their story five times, that is the resounding piece of info we have received. People do not want to be re-traumatized—this is a way for survivors to access a network that will help them with the ultimate goal being student wellness; without having to escalate the process where you are stuck in a system that might hold you there, and you will repeat your story, and it might take a year– it will elongate the process. You need a resource to speak to, you need support, and as a student myself, this is the goal.”

Lynn: “This has things that do not relate to punishment at all, it does have pro-active pieces and commitments of education and then for some of the more formal processes it is different because there are campus specific outcomes that are available. So, classroom accommodations, campus supports, and residence accommodations – those can all be made and you do not have to go through a criminal process to get those. There are more possibilities, and there are also more possibilities for sanctions; so there can be educational sanctions, there can be more restorative sanctions. Lastly, for an official complaint, someone might pursue this if they are looking for a more severe punishment like expulsion. Whereas a criminal court looks to prove cases beyond a reasonable doubt, our policy is a balance of probability. So, there is a slightly lesser standard for proof – it’s still rigorous there is still procedural fairness but there is still room for flexibility for people, how it’s taken up, and frankly survivors have more choice of going through this process.”

If sexual assault is reported/mentioned to you do you have a ‘duty’ to report it?

Lynn:  “For the most part, I do not have a duty to report it. If someone has made a disclosure to me for the most part I’d be able to keep that confidential. There are exceptions like if it were someone who disclosed and they were under 16, or if someone had disclosed and I had heard a pattern of disclosures similar that week, that would lead to me think there is a risk to other people on campus and I might then feel compelled to report and the university may have to take action in that event, but except for some of those circumstances I would follow the survivors lead.”

What questions or concerns do you have with the policy?

Tyler: “I guess my big question is really on compliance vs. compassion – will student compassion still be valued while still ensuring the compliance of the university is present and sticks. Overall, I have full faith in the team behind it and who worked on this [policy].”

Lynn: “I think one of my concerns is that it is long – that seems like a silly concern but it is actually a super practical one – being that a lot of people will not take the time to read the entire policy. That being said, we will supplement things to help with the complexity of it, like frequently asked questions, flow charts, one page articles and so forth. I am worried about the accessibility of this, if you go directly to this it can be hard to parse it out/understand the implications and so I do think it is important and I am always available to talk to people about it and what it looks like as well as the sexual support advocates. But on its own, posted on the website as a stagnant document, that sort of concerns me. Another concern that has been brought up is about the potential for cross examinations within the policy – we have made some edits since consultations about the examinations that are not in this draft – but just to let people know that participating in the appeal process is voluntary, there are supports available, and that there is a limited reason for the cross examination to happen – so we have made changes based on excellent student feedback, but it is still a concern of mine.”

What do you want Laurier students to know about this policy?

Tyler: “I want them to know that student safety, regardless of that being physical, mental wellbeing, personal, or group safety, matters to the institution on a level that is un-paralleled in my mind; they care – they genuinely care, and what’s in this policy has been at the forefront of their minds the entire time. Certain aspects of [the policy that are mandated by the] government make it difficult to ensure that compassion is given to the subject so there has to be a bit of give and take – but that being said, one thing they are not willing to give-in is the fact that survivors need to be centric in this model – we need to make sure that at all levels survivors have the options to participate, to remove themselves,  and at whatever level they feel – this is their freedom and right as someone who has experienced harm. If you wish to disclose and go formal, that’s fantastic, we have the resources; if you wish to disclose and stay informal this is a policy that is also great for that. Supports and Student well being are the focus and to students, the biggest goal for me is to make sure students know that this exists, and it matters.  You can access it and you should – and you should have questions and if you have worries you should bring them forward, that’s how we can better it. January 1st is the date in which every university MUST have a policy procedure in place legally, but it does not stop there – the conversation is just beginning, in my opinion. It is deeply personal, we respect that, and we have a number of amazing resources down in the diversity and equity office.”

Lynn: “I have two main things: I want them to know that there are supports available to them, so this policy, unlike a lot of documents, outlines exactly who the contact people are for reporting, to find out how to use this. We have listed all the key support contacts both on and off campus, and to me those are really important because people need to know where to go to ask those questions so I want people to know especially about the role of the sexual violence support advocate Sarah, as well as what she can do within her new role, as well as the counselling services we offer specifically for sexual violence. Secondly, I want them to know it exists because I think that for people who cause harm I think they need to know that there are standards and principles they have to abide by. And for people who have experienced harm, I want them to know that there is a place, and ways to take up their experience institutionally. Overall, just an awareness of the policy itself – the policy is good and a procedure for sexual violence needs to be available but is the last step – but you want the things in the first part of this policy to do their job so that you do not get people coming to the second part.” 

Overall, I am proud to attend a school that has a sexual assault and gendered violence policy in place.  Although, I do believe the policy is very confusing and there needs to be some attention paid to explaining it to Laurier’s students.

That being said, I know the Gendered Violence Prevention and Support team is making clear efforts to make a more understandable version available on their website which can be found here. Although my initial reaction to the policy was that this was a police and legal matter, but I now understand that many people do not wish to disclose to law officials and this policy is there for them more than anyone.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gendered violence or sexual assault, there are many amazing resources both on and off campus that I encourage you to contact. You can find some of the info below or click here for full details.

  • To report sexual violence, seek support or accommodations, and/or learn about resolution and/or complaint options students may contact the Sexual Violence Support Advocate, Diversity and Equity Office by e-mailing [email protected] or by phoning 519.884.0710 x. 4847. 

  • The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region 24-hour support line: 519.741.8633. Phone support is available in over 200 languages through an interpreter service. 

  • Sexual Assault Support Centre Counseling (available on or off-campus): 519.571.0121, [email protected]. 

I want to thank Lynn and Tyler for taking the time to answer all my questions and giving the study body some amazing advice. As a Golden Hawk (or literally anyone), it is important to remember sex is okay to talk about, and consent is the most golden thing to ask for.


Wilfrid Laurier '19

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