New NUIG programme to tackle issues of sexual consent

It will target people aged 16 to 23 in schools and sporting organisations

A new programme, which deals with the issue of active consent, is being launched at NUI Galway.

The research is funded by Lifes2good Foundation in partnership with Galway University Foundation and NUIG.

The Active Consent programme will be led by NUIG's SMART Consent team from the School of Psychology.

The programme targets young people aged 16 to 23 to promote a positive approach to the issue of sexual consent.

It will also partner with a number of schools and sporting organisations.

The team is made up of Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Dr Siobhán O’Higgins and Kate Dawson from the School of Psychology, and Dr Charlotte McIvor from the Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies.

The programme hopes to design and implement practical tools and strategies that reach young people with positive messaging on active sexual consent.

It also aims to promote active consent so that young people feel confident and skilled in communicating with their partners.

It is targeting three key youth settings: higher education institutions, senior cycle in schools and sports organisations.

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Several different methods will be used - including workshops, drama, training, videos, and online resources.

It also wants to promote "critical thinking" about pornography, supported by an online platform on consent education for students, parents, and teachers.

The programme was officially launched by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor on Friday.

"It is an important step forward and takes a new and original approach, which we need on issues to do with equality and sexual violence.

"The team are taking on a difficult subject in a positive way that respects young people’s capacity for independence and decision-making. Within the Department of Education, I am leading the call for a collective national standard for our higher education institutions on supporting consent and responding to sexual violence on campuses."

An expert group is to report back to the minister within the next two weeks to devise national standards for higher education institutions to implement.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, president of NUIG, added: "Through this new Active Consent programme our university, with the generous philanthropic support of Lifes2good, will promote and share new strategies to develop young people and promote positive messaging on active sexual consent.

"I am confident that this Active Consent programme will have a positive impact on the lives and futures of countless young people".

A Smart Consent report, launched in August 2017, included surveys with over 3,500 third-level students in Ireland.

In a survey of 632 students nationally, 54% of first year women students reported experiencing sexual hostility or crude gender harassment at some point since starting college, rising to 64% among second year women students, and 70% of women students in third year or a subsequent year.

The comparable figures for men were 25%, 37%, and 40%.

While in a survey of 2,150 students nationally, 71% of women and 63% of men said they were dissatisfied with the sexual health education they received at school (14% of women and 17% of men were neutral on this question; 15% of women and 20% of men were satisfied with their sexual health education at school).

More lesbian, gay, and bisexual students felt that their sexual health education at school did not cover the topics they were most interested in (75%), compared with heterosexual students (66%).