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Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Campaigns

Response to the Community Update on the Sexual Violence Policy

The Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA), the Human Rights Society, the Graduate Students’ Association, CUPE Local 2424, and CUPE Local 4600 are submitting this response to the Community Update: Sexual Violence Policy that was made available on November 16, 2016. Some of the positive changes that were made to the Policy included:

  • Modifying the definition of “University Community” to eliminate the possibility that Respondents could suspend the complaint process by ending their relationship with the University.
  • Removing the clause that enabled the President to make exceptions.
  • Adding language to address concerns about academic freedom by further outlining protections for faculty who teach sexually explicit material.

While it is recognized that the Community Update includes a number of important improvements to the Policy, there are several critical issues that need to be addressed further. These issues are detailed below with the goal of creating a strong policy that is survivor-centric and can be further improved over time.

1. We recommend the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Committee (established under section 5.2) be given the ability to make ongoing recommendations on the Policy. The work of the Committee can be facilitated through Equity Services, while the Committee itself reports to the President and has the ability to address the Board of Governors. In the first years of implementing the Policy, the Committee will play a crucial role in assessing support services and the complaints process, while also working to address any unresolved issues in relation to the Policy, its implementation, as well as educational initiatives that are undertaken. The Committee would have access to non-identifying information on requests for support services as well as complaints.

2. It is strongly believed that a survivor-centric policy for Carleton University should facilitate a complaint process that does not require the Complainant and Respondent to face each other in a formal hearing. Requiring survivors of sexual violence to face the accused person makes the process of filing a complaint no less arduous than pursuing criminal charges through the legal system. Carleton University’s policy should aim to make the process less onerous by ensuring that a Complainant is not forced into a meeting with the Respondent.

3. Language must be included that protects a Complainant from reprisal for violations relating to alcohol or drug use. The Community Update presents an argument against providing “blanket immunity” and states that the “mandate is to focus on sexual violence and the complaint at hand, independently of other policies.” It is not possible to address sexual violence in isolation. It is unlikely that survivors will seek support services or file a complaint if they risk persecution under other policies. Language could easily be included that provides immunity under specific circumstances. The Policy could, for instance, specifically indicate to survivors that they will not be persecuted if they were in violation of alcohol or drug use policies at the time of the incident.

4. Complainants should be able to speak publicly about their experience with the understanding that providing identifying information may jeopardize their case and / or leave them legally liable. While clarifying the term “public statements” is a useful step, the expectation that survivors of sexual assault can only speak about their experiences for therapeutic purposes contributes to the silence surrounding sexual violence.

5. To clarify the applicability of the Policy to off-campus events, the addition of the following sentence to section 3.1 is recommended: Off-campus interactions would reasonably fall under the scope of this policy when the outcomes of such interactions are reported to have an impact on an individual’s ability to learn and/or work at Carleton University.