Sexual consent module to be rolled out in colleges to tackle violence and harassment

The e-learning higher education consent programme can be delivered fully online, so Covid-19 restrictions will not get in the way of its delivery
Sexual consent module to be rolled out in colleges to tackle violence and harassment

In a Sexual Experiences Survey conducted last June, only 37% of male students said they were very likely to say something to intervene if a friend was taking a drunk person back to their room at a party.

A new eLearning module for students aims to "close gaps in students' understanding of sexual violence and harassment".

The Active* Consent Toolkit includes information on rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services. It will be rolled out in 22 colleges, having been produced by NUI Galway's Active* Consent Programme.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris is launching the module in the context of new research, which reveals worrying attitudes from students in relation to consent.

In a Sexual Experiences Survey conducted last June, only 37% of male students said they were very likely to say something to intervene if a friend was taking a drunk person back to their room at a party.

In comparison, 63% of female students said they were very likely to intervene in the same situation.

Just over half of male students agreed with the idea that if a woman initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a man assumes she wants to have sex.

Meanwhile, only 26% of female college students gave neutral responses or agreed on the same question.

Some 53% of male students and 37% of female students gave a 'neutral' or 'agree' response when asked if they believe asking for consent is awkward.

Mr Harris said: "We have to do more to raise awareness and support students, and the Active* Consent Toolkit will greatly assist institutions in a really practical way. I want to see all of our higher education institutions further embed the consent framework into their policies and procedures so as to ensure a deep and lasting impact."

The three-stage higher education consent learning programme can also be delivered fully online, so Covid-19 restrictions will not get in the way of its delivery.

Students will be active participants, taking part in quizzes, polls, and activities to support learning about consent, sexual violence, and harassment. They will also respond to case studies to find out how to support peers using empathetic communication and by taking action to intervene when they see something that is harmful.

"Our latest research shows that teenagers in schools and young adults in colleges strongly support the idea that consent means having the right to say yes or no, and having their partners hear and respect these preferences," said Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme co-lead.

But the research also shows that the confidence to act on this understanding can be undermined by embarrassment and shame, including misperceptions of what your peers actually think.

"There is also now evidence to show that a number of young people either agree with or do not actively reject misinformed and potentially harmful rape myths," he said.

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