'It’s not your fault': Consent campaign targets college students ahead of Fresher's Week

'It’s not your fault': Consent campaign targets college students ahead of Fresher's Week
Dressed to represent characters in the Tea Consent Video, Mark Quirke, Stephanie Sheehan, both Chapter Design, Alexandrv Ianos, UCC student and Inma Pavon, Choreographer. Picture: Jim Coughlan

A consent campaign has been launched in Cork city targeting third level students - especially those on their first week in college.

Students of the various third level institutions will be invited to tea parties over the coming days as part of the initiative which explains the concept of consent by comparing the initiation of sex to making someone a cup of tea, and which was launched at UCC yesterday.

Those behind the campaign hope to make consent the opening and focal point of Freshers Week across UCC, CIT and the various post leaving cert colleges across the city.

Mary Crilly, the director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre (CSVC), said studies have shown that the risk of rape increases during Fresher’s Week and encouraged people - male or female - to speak out if they are victims of sexual assault or rape.

“This is about reminding people that in 80% of the cases, it’s someone you know who does it,” she said.

Most guys are not doing this. The guys that are raping and sexually assaulting understand consent 100% but they don’t want consent.

“They are very arrogant, they have a sense of entitlement, and they do it because they can. But this wrecks lives.”

Ms Crilly said the campaign message comparing a cup of tea to consent is simple - if someone doesn’t want a cup of tea, don’t make them drink it; they may initially say they’d love a cup of tea, but can change their mind; and if they’re unconscious, they can’t say they would like a cup of tea, let alone drink one.

The campaign arose out of a spike in rape reports to the CSVC from students in Cork last September.

The Irish Examiner reported at the time how three female students went to the centre to say they had been raped. None felt they could report the incidents to gardaí.

Ms Crilly said at least one of the sexual assaults took place in student accommodation and one of the students said her assailant was from “her parish”.

“Even to use that language made it very close. The girl in this case really trusted this guy,” Ms Crilly said.

After those incidents last year, we talked to the college authorities and the students union and we said we can’t stop everything but we can raise awareness and if this happens to you, don’t be quiet, tell us, tell somebody. Don’t stay silent. It’s not your fault.

The campaign is being coordinated by the Safer City initiative - a collective involving the CSVC, bar and nightclub owners, gardaí, the city council and street pastors.

Chief Superintendent, Barry McPolin, said a significant policing operation is in place across the city to monitor Fresher’s Week.

He encouraged first-year college students to enjoy themselves and the college experience, but to do so carefully and responsibly.

“Look out for your friends, have your few drinks, don’t take drugs, be conscious and aware of the surroundings at all times and if there’s any issue, contact your friends or the gardaí and we’ll respond,” he said.

“If you are convicted of an offence, whether it’s a public order issue or possession of drugs, it can impact on a J1 visa application and on future job prospects when potential employers look for your record.”

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