New Brunswick

St. Thomas University introduces policy on sexual violence

St. Thomas University released a new policy on sexual violence Friday, as well as a policy on non-academic misconduct.

New policy includes provisions aimed at awareness, prevention

St. Thomas University introduced a 11 page document, setting out exactly what to do when someone reports a sexual assault. (CBC News)

St. Thomas University released a new policy on sexual violence Friday, as well as a policy on non-academic misconduct.

Both come into force after the school received a report of a sexual assault during the first two weeks of the new semester.

The university had told CBC News last winter it would have a policy on sexual violence ready for the fall. It was not ready for the return of students for the 2015 fall semester, nor in time for the report of sexual a sexual assault this September. 

The new policy on sexual violence outlines "the protocols to be followed in the case of a disclosure or complaint from any student, for any incident occurring on or off campus by a member of the University community," states the document, which is posted on the school's website.

It was developed in conjunction with the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre and includes provisions for the prevention of sexual assaults and education on bystander intervention.

The policy also offers definitions including one for consent. It draws on the Criminal Code of Canada definition, stating consent to sexual activity must be voluntary, active and continuous and "cannot be given by a person who is impaired by alcohol or drugs, or is unconscious."

The school wanted the policy to help protect students and empower someone who may have been assaulted with the knowledge of what choices and resources are available to them, student services director Shannon Clarke said.

"For a person that has disclosed that they've experienced sexual violence, when that incident has occurred, it matters to someone what those next steps might be." - Shannon Clarke

"For a person that has disclosed that they've experienced sexual violence, when that incident has occurred, it matters to someone what those next steps might be so there are two flow charts," said Clarke.

"One for incidents that have happened in the last 72 hours, more recent, and one that's occurred a longer time ago."

The charts outline where students can report and what medical, legal and counseling resources are available.

The policy also removes a 12-month reporting limit the school previously had in place. 

The university has also written in a safety plan so the university will be able to take action if they think the student body is in danger. 

"We have some language in there that the university has the right to keep our community safe," said Clarke.

"If we feel significantly concerned that an incident of any kind, whether it is sexual assault or otherwise, that would put the community at large at risk, we do have the right to act."

The policy covers 2,000 students at St. Thomas University.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 students on the neighbouring University of New Brunswick campus are without a specific sexual assault policy. The university says it doesn't expect one to be finalized until spring.

STU's policy on non-academic misconduct details "the process by which a Complaint of Student Non-Academic Misconduct will be investigated, evaluated and resolved," states the policy also posted to the school's website.

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