In response to the release and publication of the USI’s Sexual Experiences survey, UCD welfare officer Ruairí Power has emailed Ministers Joe McHugh and Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcoming the “commitments to the implementation of the report recommendations”. Along with this Ruairí has asked that, despite the then government formation talks, they would use their positions to encourage that the incoming government pass the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill “as a matter of urgency”.
The programme contains a provision to “Develop inclusive and age-appropriate RSE and SPHE curricula across primary and post-primary levels, including an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships and making appropriate legislative changes, if necessary”. Shocked by the figures of students in higher education who reported “non-consensual penetration” illustrated in the survey, Ruairí comments in his email that access to factual and “robust” RSE (especially in terms of consent) is something governments need to prioritise as they move forward. He also notes that there remains a “huge degree of variance in the nature and quality of sex education” received by students prior to reaching higher education, and unfortunately, it remains a reality that many students only experience such objective information about consent once attending university. In a statement published on the Student’s Union website, he stresses the need to resolve the issue at an earlier stage rather than only tackling the issue at Third Level
The UCD welfare officer has stated that a “clear message” must be sent out to students on a regular basis from a young age in order to educate people and to start up a conversation on pressing issues such as consent. “Informing young people of their responsibilities towards their peers is essential, and students should know exactly what resources are available to them when they experience or observe unacceptable behaviour”, Ruairí expresses in his letter. He also states that through implementing the aforementioned provision or similar legislative measures, a transparent commitment to deal with rape culture by the incoming government will be seen.
The Sexual Experiences Survey, whose results were released on the 22nd of June. The survey found that 29% of female, 28% of non-binary, and 10% of male students stated that they had experienced “non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force, or threat of force” while attending college. The survey, completed by 6,026 students between February and April, aimed to document the experiences of sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexist harassment faced by Irish college students in higher education. The report hopes to inform the implementation of the ‘Consent Framework’ being drawn up by the Department of Education and skills.
Casey Conway – Reporter