QUEEN'S HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE
Speaking directly to the harasser or writing to him can be very hard, especially if the person is your professor, supervisor or has a position or authority, such as a TA or a don in residence. It is possible that the harasser already knows that you do not like the behaviour. He may be doing it on purpose and enjoys the power he has over you. In that case you may need to take more formal action to stop the harassment.
Queen's has a harassment policy which specifically prohibits sexual harassment. Advisors are available through the Queen's Human Rights Office to assist someone in taking action. The following are some commonly asked questions about the process.
The Human Rights Office is a confidential, university-based service provider which administers the University's Harassment and Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure. The Office has advisors who assist in the resolution of harassment/discrimination complaints.
The policy defines sexual harassment as "engaging in comment or conduct of a sexual nature which is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome." It includes but is not limited to:
The Queen's Policy and Procedure applies to all students, staff and faculty of the University. If the situation you're dealing with involves members of the Queen's community (whether on or off campus), and if it falls under the description of sexual harassment, the advisors can help.
Depending on the situation, there may be a wide range of options for handling your complaint. In the past, complainants have sought all kinds of resolutions, from personal apologies, to requests for no contact from respondents, to training for their academic departments. In seeking a resolution, the Office's main priority is to ensure complainant safety and to see that the harassment stops.
While the Human Rights Office's role is to advise you about your options, you as the complainant retain control over how your complaint gets handled. How your case proceeds will, to a large extent, depend on whether you choose to have the matter resolved informally or formally.
At the informal level, any reasonable steps may be taken in order to resolve a complaint. Examples of informal resolutions may include: a "no contact" letter stating explicitly that the complainant wishes to have no contact with the respondent; a conversation between the complainant's advisor, the respondent and his/her advisor; a facilitated settlement whereby a respondent agrees not to further engage in harassing/discriminatory activity, or academic adjustments when necessary.
Should the situation warrant it, or should informal routes of resolution not be successful, you may wish to file a formal complaint. A formal complaint involves requesting that the Secretary of the University assemble a three person Complaint Board to make an official ruling on your complaint. The Complaint Board decides on the appropriate remedial measures to be taken based on the evidence of the probability that the alleged harassment took place. Complainants and respondents may, at any time, bring a support person of their choice to the hearing. Note, however, that even after requesting a formal hearing, you may still choose to have your complaint resolved informally.
Human Rights Office advisors are happy to recommend what they feel is a reasonable course of action in your situation. But remember, any decisions about how to proceed with your case ultimately rest with you.
You will not have to confront the harasser in any informal attempts at resolution. Human Rights Office staff are aware of how emotionally difficult it can be to be the target of harassment or discrimination; it is perfectly natural for complainants to experience feelings of guilt, confusion, pain, anger, powerlessness, or fear. Complainants do not often want to "talk things out" with people who have hurt them or who hold positions of power over them. Human Rights Office advisors are available to act as third parties in any negotiations between you and a respondent.
Any who makes a complaint under the University Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Procedure is protected against reprisal. In fact, any reprisal against you for making a complaint is considered a further violation of University Policy. Advisors will attempt to take all the steps necessary to ensure that reprisals are not taken against you.
However, if you are still concerned about how you may be treated in your workplace or classroom living environment, you may wish to postpone action on your complaint until all threat of reprisal has gone or until you've left that threatening environment. In the procedure, this is known as holding a complaint in abeyance.
While the Policy sometimes recognizes exceptional circumstances that may prevent individuals from filing complaints within a reasonable time period, complaints must generally be brought to the Office within 6 months of the last incident of harassment or discrimination.
If you are planning to hold your complaint in abeyance because of a threat of reprisals, you may postpone action up to three months after filing, or until any threat of reprisal has been removed, or until you've permanently left the threatening environment.
The purpose of the Policy and Procedure is to facilitate the creation of an environment in which all members of the Queen's community are able to live, work and study free of harassment and discrimination. If what happened to you off-campus has negative repercussions on your ability to function at Queen's, and the respondent is also a member of the Queen's community, our policies still apply.
When complaints are brought to the Human Rights Office, every effort is made to maintain confidentiality. No one will be contacted about your visit to the Office or about the nature of your complaint (including your parent/guardian(s)) except with your agreement.
Please note that the Human Rights Office is obliged by law to disclose information which reveals physical or sexual abuse of children or threats to the safety of other community members.
Should you decide to drop your complaint, we will abide by your wishes. Cases taken by the Human Rights Office are always "complainant drive." This means that any decisions about how to proceed with your case are ultimately, made by you. Human Rights Office Coordinators and Advisors will not act on your behalf without your express consent. You are always in control of the process.