Supporting Survivors of Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

Emergency ContactsAs a Western employee, you may receive a disclosure of gender-based and sexual violence from a student or colleague. This site includes important information to help you understand how best to support these individuals.

Helping Someone

Anyone at Western may receive a disclosure about sexual violence. Under Western's updated Gender-Based and Sexual Violence Policy and its Procedures, staff, faculty, and student leaders who receive a disclosure of gender-based and sexual violence from a Western student must complete the Gender-based & Sexual Violence Referral Form. This form is sent confidentially to the Gender-based Violence & Survivor Support Case Manager who will reach out with resources, options, and support. For more information on this process please visit our Disclosure page.

If the disclosure is from an employee, please refer the individual to the Human Rights Office (hro@uwo.ca) and let the individual know that supports are available through Western’s Employee Assistance Program.

The assistance that you will be able to provide to a survivor/victim of gender-based and sexual violence will depend on the nature, timing, and ongoing effects of the incident(s).

If you receive a disclosure following an assault:

  • Help the individual find a safe environment.
  • Advise the individual to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if there are no apparent injuries, there may be internal injuries.
    • In London, immediate care and counselling support is available at the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program, located at St. Joseph’s Hospital (go to Urgent Care). Support is provided regardless of gender. The Centre will provide support to the survivor/victim in making choices and understanding options. Options include treatment of injuries, emotional support and crisis intervention, pregnancy prevention, the testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infection, safety planning and referrals.
  • Advise the individual to preserve evidence. At the Regional Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Treatment Program, the survivor/victim will be provided the option of collecting forensic (physical) evidence. The survivor/victim may choose to use this evidence later on or not at all. Survivors/victims have the most options available to them within the first 72 hours (3 days) following a sexual assault however certain evidence can be collected up to 12 days after the sexual assault.
  • Submit a Gender-Based Violence Disclosure Form. Under Western’s updated Gender-Based and Sexual Violence Policy and its Procedures, staff, faculty, and student Leaders who receive a disclosure of gender-based and sexual violence from a Western student must complete the Gender-based & Sexual Violence Disclosure Form.
  • If the disclosure is from an employee, please refer the individual to the Human Rights Office (hro@uwo.ca) and let the individual know that supports are available through Western’s Employee Assistance Program.

If a survivor of gender-based and sexual violence turns to you for support:

  • Believe the survivor. It is not your role to question whether the violence occurred.
  • The survivor is not to blame. No one deserves to be a victim of sexual violence no matter what the circumstances. Even if the survivor feels responsible, say clearly, “It was not your fault”.
  • Help the survivor explore options. You may use the resources listed on this website. You may accompany the survivor to any resources they wish to go to, as a support person. Give the survivor the freedom to choose the services that they feel will be most beneficial and supportive. Support the survivor’s choices, even if you would make different choices.
  • Avoid any re-victimization. A survivor is capable of taking care of themselves. Allow the survivor to maintain control unless you are given permission or requested to assist. Resist passing judgment about how the survivor has handled the situation. Do not ask questions out of curiosity. Do not make excuses for the perpetrator’s actions.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or make a referral. Be aware of the limits of your own abilities and boundaries in supporting a survivor. Several resources are listed here and you are encouraged to share these resources with the survivor or access them for your own support. If you are not sure what to do next or where to call, you may call Human Rights Office for assistance. The Human Rights Office can help direct you (either as survivor/victim or a support person) to resources for academic and workplace accommodations, changes to living arrangements in residence, and other emotional and health supports and resources.
  • If the disclosure is from a student – please submit a Student Gender-Based Violence Referral Form. Under Western’s updated Gender-Based and Sexual Violence Policy and its Procedures, staff, faculty, and student leaders who receive a gender-based and sexual violence disclosure from a Western student must complete the Gender-Based & Sexual Violence Disclosure Form.
  • If the disclosure is from an employee, please refer the individual to the Human Rights Office (hro@uwo.ca) and let the individual know that supports are available through Western’s Employee Assistance Program.

If you learn that an individual is being harassed:

  • Believe the individual. Do not question their experience or make excuses for the other person’s behaviour.
  • Encourage the individual to document incidents and keep evidence. Dates, times, locations, specifics about what happened, witnesses, copies of emails and texts, phone logs, etc.
  • Refer the individual to the Human Rights Office. You should also contact the Human Rights Office to discuss the incident and attain advice, particularly if you are in an administrative or academic role.

The above material was adapted from Georgia Tech's VOICE Initiative – www.voice.gatech.edu

Employee Training Modules

Western has developed an introductory training module to help you learn what to say and do, and what is expected of you as an employee, to support students or colleagues if you receive a disclosure.  Coming Soon.

An advanced, two-hour session developed by The Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children (CREVAWC) is also available. Western’s CREVAWC team are international leaders in the development and application of knowledge for the prevention of violence against women and children. Employees seeking to deepen their understanding of GBSV are encouraged to complete this module. Coming Soon.

A Disclosure is Different than a Complaint

  • A disclosure is the sharing of information by a survivor with a Western employee concerning an incident of GBSV.
  • A complaint is the sharing of information concerning an incident of GBSV with the intention of initiating a formal complaint process with the University.

The decision to file a complaint is a decision to be made by the survivor. Accessing support and resources does not require the filing of a formal complaint with the University.

Non-criminal complaints of gender-based and sexual violence are managed by the Student Support & Case Management Office (where the Respondent is student) or the Human Rights Office (where the Respondent is an employee). A complaint can be made by contacting one of these offices directly or by filing a complaint

Criminal Reports are separate and are managed by the applicable police services. Western Special Constable Services can assist students in connecting with their local police service.

Survivors of sexual assault who are living in Ontario may be eligible for up to four hours of free, confidential legal advice. Information about this service and eligibility criteria can be found here.

In the new policy: What happens when a complaint is made?

After a complaint is made, the university's Policy on Gender-Based & Sexual Violence details a clear process that is followed. You can review the new policy (in effect on May 1, 2020) and its procedures online.

Who does this process apply to?

The process only applies to complaints that involve a Respondent who is a student or visiting student of the university, or at the discretion of the Provost & Vice-President (Academic).

For complaints against a faculty or staff member, please refer to the investigation outlined in the Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policy and Procedures.

Am I required to participate in a complaint process?

No. Complainants or Respondents are not required to participate in an investigation or any other aspects of the complaint process. However, Complainants should understand that a decision not to participate may prevent the university from investigating and coming to a decision. Respondents should understand that a decision not to participate will not be held against them, but may be detrimental to them and will not deter the university from proceeding with an investigation and/or making a decision about the complaint.

The Complaint Process

Step 1: Initial Review

The initial review assesses whether there is appropriate jurisdiction and whether the allegations constitute a violation of the policy. The Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) then decides if the complaint should be referred for investigation. This referral decision is not subject to review or appeal.

Step 2: Interim Measures

There may be interim measures put in place while the investigation and complaint process happen. These will take into account the interests of the Complainant and Respondent, the integrity of the process, and the health and safety of university community members. They are not disciplinary and do not represent a finding of misconduct.

They might include things like a no-contact directive, suspending campus or work-related privileges, moving an office to another location. For more information, refer to the full policy document.

A Respondent subject to interim measures can ask the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) to reconsider whether they are appropriate.

Step 3: Notice to the Respondent

The Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) will notify the Respondent in writing about the investigation. It will include a summary of the allegations, describe any interim measures and how to seek reconsideration of these, and identify potential sources of support during the process.

Step 4: Investigation

An investigation is carried out by a trained investigator who will typically obtain written responses and documents from the Respondent, conduct interviews, gather any other relevant documentation, and produce an investigation report.

Throughout the investigation, the Complainant and Respondent can have a support person (including legal counsel at their own expense) present for meetings.

The investigation report produced will review the complaint and determine whether the facts of the allegations have been established, but will not determine whether the Policy has been breached or recommend any sanctions.
The university is committed to thorough and timely investigations of complaints, all the while keeping both the Complainant and Respondent up-to-date about its status.

Step 5: Decision

Using the investigation report, the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) will determine whether, on the balance of probabilities, Gender-based and Sexual Violence occurred. The Respondent and Complainant will be notified in writing of the decision, why it was made, and how to appeal. If requested by either the Complainant or Respondent, the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) will provide access to the investigation report.

Sanctions: The Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) will consider submissions on sanctions from the Complainant and Respondent. Sanctions may range from written warnings and educational sanctions, to access restrictions, limitations to privileges (financial awards, employment, residence space), suspension, or expulsion.

Step 6: Appeal

Either the Complainant or Respondent can make an appeal within two weeks of a decision. Directions on how to submit an appeal are included in the written copy of the decision, and are also detailed in the university’s full policy.Grounds for an appeal include: new evidence, serious procedural errors, that the decision made was unreasonable or unsupported by evidence, or that the sanctions were unreasonable.

An appeal hearing will be scheduled with at least two weeks notice where the person making the appeal and the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) will be heard by an Adjudicator appointed by the Provost & Vice-President (Academic).

Optional: Informal Resolution

At the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience)’s discretion, the Respondent & Complainant can participate in an informal resolution process. This takes place after Step 3 and before Step 5. The informal resolution process is conducted by the Director of Human Rights Office, or another qualified staff or faculty member.

Both the Complainant and Respondent can end the informal resolution process at any time. Any resolution must be acceptable to both, as well as the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience).

If no agreement is reached within a reasonable amount of time, the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) will issue a decision based on the materials and information received in the formal complaint process.

Information for Survivors

Placing control back in your hands can be integral part of the healing process. It is important that you are provided with information, so you are able to make a choice about next steps, if any. To help with this, Western wants to ensure that you are fully informed of your options including the difference between a disclosure and a complaint. Prior to you making a decision to file a complaint about an incident of sexual violence, the following offices are able to outline what is involved at each stage of the complaint, investigation and decision-making processes in order to support you in making an informed decision about how you would like to proceed:

  • Gender-Based Violence and Survivor Support Case Manager
  • Human Rights Office
  • Gender-based Violence Response Coordinator
  • Residence Life Office
  • Western Special Constable Services

Please note, visiting one of these offices does not obligate you to file a complaint. When meeting with any of these offices you can expect the following:

  • A compassionate and empathetic response
  • An explanation of the limits to confidentiality prior to you being required to disclose any information
  • An explanation of the difference between a disclosure and a complaint
  • The choice to file a report or not, except in circumstances where the Sexual Violence Review Team determines there is a reasonable concern for the health and safety of other members of the University community
  • An assessment of the current safety risk to you
  • You will not be required to share details of the incident or names of individuals involved in order to obtain information about the processes and supports available to you
  • A discussion about what, if any, accommodations you may see as helpful and the process for obtaining such accommodations
  • Information on services and supports at Western and in the London community that may be able to support you further

Emergency Contacts

Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program

Staffed 24/7, St. Joseph’s Hospital, London (directions)
519-646-6100 ext. 64224

Western Special Constable Services

Lawson Hall, Rm. 1257 (24/7)
From a campus phone: call 911 or x83300 (non-emergency line)
From a cell phone: call 519-661-3300
*For reports of gender-based violence, WSCS will connect you with the local police service.

The Health & Wellness Clinic (for immediate mental health and crisis support)

University Community Centre, Rm. 11
Business Hours: 519-661-3030
Non-Business Hours: 519-433-2023

Important Contacts

Gender-Based Violence & Survivor Support Case Manager

519-661-3568
support@uwo.ca

Anova (formerly Sexual Assault Centre of London)

24 hour crisis & support line: 519-642-3000 

CMHA Crisis Centre & Reach Out

24/7 Crisis and Support Services
In person: 534 Queens Ave, London (directions)
Phone: 519-433-2023
Webchat

Human Rights Office

519-661-3334 (non-emergencies only)

Residence Counselling

Ontario Hall, Room 3C10

Independent Legal Advice for Sexual Assault Survivors

Survivors of sexual assault may be eligible for up to four hours of free, confidential legal advice.


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