News / Edmonton

'You support the survivor first' University of Alberta passes new sexual violence policy

One of the major changes is to be more supportive of sexual assault survivors when they initiate the complaint and investigation process.

André Costopoulos, the University of Alberta's vice provost and dean of students.

Supplied photo

André Costopoulos, the University of Alberta's vice provost and dean of students.

The University of Alberta has launched its first comprehensive sexual violence policy, which aims to provide stronger support to victims of sexual violence.

The university’s board of governors passed the new policy on Friday. André Costopoulos, vice provost and dean of students, said there were various policies that addressed sexual violence in the code of student behaviour and collective bargaining agreements, but never a standalone policy.

“There were a number of policies and procedures that address sexual violence in different ways but they weren’t as visible, accessible and centralized as they should have been,” Costopoulos said.

An example of one major change is how the university deals with the process of investigating a sexual assault complaint.

“It is in fact oftentimes intimidating to the survivor, it’s not supportive of the survivor, and one of the things that we have changed … is this idea that you support the survivor first,” Costopoulos said.

He said there was a perception in the past that by supporting the survivor immediately, it biases the investigation.

“One of the key things that has changed that we recognize there is no contradiction there. We have to support the survivor first. And we can still give due process to the person under the allegation,” Costopoulos said.

The policy was created with input from 27 student groups, university offices and partners. Developing a standalone sexual policy was one of 46 recommendations in the Review of the University of Alberta’s Response to Sexual Assault, released in 2016. 

More on