Consent toolkit for colleges launched

More awareness and support for students needed
  • Deborah Condon

A toolkit aimed at offering guidance to third level institutions on how to develop an action plan on consent, sexual violence and harassment, has been launched.

The Active Consent Toolkit has been launched by the Active Consent Programme at NUI Galway.

It offers guidance to higher education institutions and is aimed at staff and student representatives working with student unions, societies and sports clubs.

The launch of the toolkit comes at a time when all higher education institutions have been requested by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, to devise actions plans that deal with the issues of consent, sexual violence and harassment in third level education.

"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," said Minister Harris at the launch of the toolkit.

He said that he has asked all institutions to develop and publish specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment, and provide an annual report on their progress in implementing the framework, by next February.

President of NUI Galway, Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, congratulated the Active Consent team at NUI Galway for its work in this area.

"Education and support around the subject of consent for our student community is a critical learning component that should be made available to everyone during their university journey. Supporting the safety, health and wellbeing of our students and staff is our top priority," he commented.

As a result of Covid-19, the toolkit features a new three-stage higher education institution consent education programme for 2020-2021 that can be delivered fully online.

Stage one of this new programme, the Active Consent Online Workshop, will be rolled out to first year students across 22 higher education institutions this autumn.

As part of the toolkit, Active Consent is also launching an e-learning module -Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers. This will be available from October 15.

This e-learning module aims to close gaps in students' understanding of sexual violence and harassment. It includes the legal definitions of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services.

"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.

"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," commented Dr Padraig MacNeela, Active Consent Programme co-lead at NUI Galway.

Findings from NUI Galway's ‘Sexual Experiences Survey', which was published last June found that there continues to be major grey areas around consent. For example, 26% of female college students and 51% of male college students gave a ‘neutral' or ‘agree' response to the rape myth that if a female initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a male assumes she wants to have sex.

According to Dr Charlotte McIvor, Active Consent Programme co-lead and editor of the Active Consent Toolkit, it offers "significant opportunities for learning, culture and behaviour change in the area of sexual violence and harassment in higher education".

For more information about the Acive Consent Programme, click here. To receive a toolkit, email activeconsent@nuigalway.ie.

 


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