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Tribune Explains: McGill’s procedure for responding to sexual assault

Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence 

Recent events from within the McGill community have sparked conversations about McGill’s existing sexual violence response framework and its efficacy in delivering justice to survivors. The McGill Tribune/looked into how the university’s Policy Against Sexual Violence relates to the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (the “Code”), and how these policies handle sexual assault allegations. 

What is the difference between a filing disclosure and filing a formal report?

To file a disclosure, a survivor shares an instance of sexual violence with the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE). Disclosing does not trigger an investigation, nor does it require the survivor to describe the incident. Filing a disclosure does not automatically make it subject to the Codeit is up to the survivor to choose whether they wish to proceed with this step.

A report refers to a formal account or statement about sexual violence to university authorities, who will then begin a standard process of investigating the allegation.

If a survivor wishes to file a formal report, the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures is used as the disciplinary framework. The disciplinary measures outlined in the Code are only applicable if the survivor elects to file a formal report, not if they only file a disclosure.

What is McGill’s policy for responding to disclosures? 

McGill responds to disclosures filed through OSVRSE, although filing through Security Services or the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) are other possible routes. Upon receiving a disclosure, the university works with the survivor and the appropriate university authorities in the time between disclosing and responding to ensure a safe living and working environment for the survivor. 

The university may also grant reasonable accommodations to the survivor, including exam or assignment deferrals, late withdrawal from a course without a transcript “W,” tuition reimbursements for withdrawn courses, priority access to Counselling Services, or a change in university residence. 

What is McGill’s policy for responding to formal reports?

Reports of sexual violence are filed with a Special Investigator, a McGill-employed,  impartial, trauma-informed person tasked with examining formal reports of sexual violence. The Special Investigator conducts and completes an investigation within 90 days of the date that the report was filed. The survivor always retains the right to not participate in the investigation. There is also no time limit of how long ago an incident happened for reporting an act of sexual violence.  

The survivor reserves the right to contact external legal aid or law enforcement authorities. Survivors can pursue private legal action alongside filing a report at McGill. Upon completing the investigation, the Special Investigator submits a final report to the Provost and gives a copy to the survivor and the respondent. The report will also include recommendations on the measures that should be taken, disciplinary or administrative, to address the report. 

What are the possible consequences and discipline outcomes?

Disciplinary actions will vary according to the nature and severity of the incident. The survivor has the option to express the impact that the sexual violence has had on their life through a written statement that can be submitted to disciplinary authorities. 

If the respondent is a student, disciplinary outcomes as defined in the Code can include an admonishment, a reprimand, limiting or removing campus duties and privileges, suspension, and even expulsion. Additional outcomes, such as education, training, counselling, and supervision, may also accompany the disciplinary measures. Before deciding whether to implement the measures, the university will consult with the survivor. 

What happens in the interim between receiving a report and coming to a resolution?

If a disclosure or report requires that immediate measures be put in place to ensure the safety of the survivor, the university will consult the individual before authorizing measures. Some measures may include voluntary actions agreed on by the respondent, limiting communication between the respondent and the complainant, devising alternate academic, extracurricular, residential or work changes, and temporarily excluding the respondent from campus.

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