Reporting Gender-Based Violence

A formal report or complaint of gender-based violence is different than a disclosure of gender-based and sexual violence.

Disclosure: The sharing of information by a survivor with a member of the university community concerning and incident of gender-based violence.

Report / Complaint: The sharing of information concerning an incident of sexual violence with the intention of initiating a formal, non-criminal process with the university. The process for reporting an incident of sexual violence to the university is outlined in Western’s Policy on Sexual Violence.

Deciding whether to report sexual violence is the right of the survivor. Accessing support and resources does not require the filing of a formal complaint with the university.


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

Click here to learn more about the Formal Complaint Process.

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 members at 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 explusion.

Step 6: Appeal

Either the Complainant or Respondent can make an appeal within 2 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 2 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.

Request an Information Meeting to Learn More

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 report. Prior to you making a decision to report an incident of sexual violence, the following offices are  able to outline what is involved at each stage of the reporting, investigation and decision-making processes in order to support you in making an informed decision about how you would like to proceed:

Please note, visiting one of these offices does not obligate you to make a report. 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 report
  • 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