What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is an umbrella term for a range of acts of a sexual nature that are threatened, attempted or committed towards a person without that person’s consent. It may be directed towards a person's sexual orientation, sexual or gender expression, or gender identity. Sexual violence includes but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, cyberviolence, voyeurism etc.

Policy Definition

According to section 7(j) of the Policy, “Sexual Violence” means sexual act or acts targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression that is committed, threatened, or attempted against a person without the person’s Consent and may occur in person, in writing, by phone, or by any means of communication, including online and social media. Sexual Violence includes:

  1. sexual assault, meaning intentional sexual contact with another person without that person’s Consent;
  2. sexual harassment, meaning Conduct of a Sexual Nature
    1. whereby sexual activity:
      1. is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of an individual’s employment or status in a course, program, or activity; or
      2. is used as a basis for an employment or educational decision affecting an individual; OR
    2. the effect of which is to impair that person’s work or educational performance where it is known or ought to be known that the conduct is unwelcome;
  3. stalking, meaning repeatedly watching or following another person, where the person making a Disclosure or Report feels that the stalking is connected with gender or sexual identity;
  4. indecent exposure, meaning exposing one’s genitals in a public place or to another person with the intention to threaten or offend;
  5. voyeurism, meaning the surreptitious observation or recording of a person by mechanical or electronic means;
  6. distribution of sexual images, meaning the distribution of an image, photo, or video of a person of a sexual nature, without that person’s Consent; and
  7. sexual exploitation, meaning abuse or exploitation of another person's sexuality for the purpose of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage, or any other non-legitimate purpose.

Who is covered by McGill's Policy against Sexual Violence?

The Policy applies to all members of the University community – this includes all students, faculty and administrative and support staff. This means that all members of the University community benefit from the protections of the Policy and that all members of the University community have a duty not to engage in conduct that constitutes sexual violence.

Additionally, a survivor who is not a member of the university community may make a report and an investigation may proceed if the alleged sexual violence occurred in a university context and the respondent is, at the time of the report, a member of the University community. The definition of university context can be found in section 7(n) of the Policy.

Are support services available?

Support services are available for all members of our community.

Any survivor, regardless of when or where an incident of sexual violence occurred, may access support services. Survivors may also access support regardless of whether they choose to report the incident to McGill or external authorities.

To learn more about support services, contact the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE). Peer support services are also available through the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students' Society (SACOMSS).

Support for respondents who are students will be facilitated through the Dean of Students or Student Services. Support for respondents who are employees will normally be facilitated through the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) and the association or union for the employee group to which the respondent belongs.

For more information on support services, visit our pages for students and for staff.

What if someone I know discloses an experience of sexual violence?

Listen, believe, and validate their feelings. Learn more about how to respond to a disclosure about sexual violence on the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE) website.

A disclosure is not the same as making a report. A disclosure is the sharing of information about sexual violence with another person. Making a report means informing the Special Investigator about an incident (or incidents) of sexual violence for the purpose of initiating an investigation.

The Policy provides for certain rights and responsibilities when a Survivor makes a disclosure, with the aim of informing and empowering survivors. Please see sections 11-15 of the Policy for more information.

How do I report an incident of sexual violence?

To make a report through McGill’s Policy against Sexual Violence, contact the External Special Investigator, Me Caroline Lemay, at special.investigator [at] mcgill.ca. You can find more information on the reporting process on our webpage.

A survivor may make a report in writing by email or letter to the Special Investigator or by making a verbal report to the Special Investigator. In the case of a verbal report, the Special Investigator will write down this information and the survivor will be asked to review and sign that document as reflecting the survivor’s report.

The Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE) is also available to provide information about reporting options.

My report relates to a situation at McGill that occurred several years ago. Can I still make a report?

Yes. There is no time limit for filing a report of sexual violence.

What if I witnessed - but did not directly experience - sexual violence?

As a third party, you can make a report under the Policy. The Special Investigator will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed. The Special Investigator must also ensure that such an investigation would not violate procedural fairness. The survivor has the right to be informed of an investigation triggered by a third-party report but does not have to participate.

As a witness, you also have a right to access any of the support services available at McGill.

Can I submit an anonymous report?

Yes, you can make an anonymous report under the Policy. As in the case of a third-party report, the Special Investigator will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed. The Special Investigator must also ensure that such an investigation would not violate procedural fairness. The survivor has the right to be informed of an investigation triggered by an anonymous report but does not have to participate.

What do the terms "Survivor" and "Respondent" mean?

A survivor is any person who has experienced sexual violence, including individuals who self-identify as a victim or victim/survivor.

A respondent is an individual who is alleged to have committed an act of sexual violence in a report by made by a survivor.

Why is the respondent entitled to receive a copy of the report?

As a matter of procedural fairness, the respondent receives a copy of the report so that they can know the nature of the report against them and provide a meaningful response. The respondent then provides a written response that is shared with the survivor.

Who is responsible for investigating reports?

The External Special Investigator, Me Caroline Lemay, is charged with investigating all reports of sexual violence at McGill. The Special Investigator conducts trauma-informed investigations and maintains an independent and impartial role.

What happens after I make a report?

The Special Investigator will conduct an initial review to determine whether there is jurisdiction to investigate, whether mediation should be proposed to the parties, and whether any immediate measures are warranted to protect any member of the University community.

Where an investigation is initiated, it will be completed within 90 days. The timeline for an investigation can only be extended if the parties agree to attempt mediation, which will suspend the delay by no more than 30 days.

At the end of the investigation, the Special Investigator will provide a written report to the Provost and the parties that includes the findings of relevant facts and a conclusion as to whether or not the evidence is sufficient to find that sexual violence occurred. The Special Investigator’s report shall also include a recommendation as to whether disciplinary and/or administrative measures should be taken. The Provost will then issue a decision based on the Special Investigation’s report, which shall be communicated to the parties.

For more information on the reporting process, please visit our page on making a report.

Can a survivor withdraw a report?

A survivor can withdraw a report at any time.

In exceptional circumstances, the Special Investigator may deem it necessary to proceed with an investigation after a survivor withdraws a report in order to protect the safety of members of the University Community. In such cases, the Special Investigator must receive authorization from the Provost to continue the investigation. Where an investigation proceeds, the Special Investigator will inform the survivor, who has the right not to participate in a continued investigation.

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