T/W: Sexual Abuse

After it was revealed last month that a Discord server containing over 100,000 intimate images of Irish women was shared with over 500 participants, the University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCD SU) has committed itself to campaign to end image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) in Ireland.

In response to the leak, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee expressed her intent to bring provisions before the Government which will make it illegal to share “intimate images” without the consent of the person in the image, according to the Irish Times. The Bill is set to be debated in the Daíl this month.

The UCD SU hosted an online panel discussion on IBSA on Tuesday with panelists Ciara Purvis, a law student at Maynooth University, intersectional feminist and activist, Dr Caroline West, sex educator and host of Glow West podcast, Shane Murray, the organiser with End IBSA Ireland, Catriona O’Brien, chairperson of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), and Dr Aideen Quilty, Assistant Professor in Gender Studies at the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice UCD.

The panel was intended to further the discussion of legislation, as well reiterate the fact that legislation will not solve the issue of IBSA on its own. It was organised by Leighton Gray, the UCD SU Campaigns & Engagement Officer, and Ruairí Power, UCD SU’s Welfare Officer.

“The panelists highlighted the need to include proposed amendments to the bill making it’s way through the Oireachtas currently as set out by the activists themselves,” Power told The College Tribune.

Power added that there needs to be more than simply legislation preventing the sharing of intimate images without consent. “Cultural issues and societal attitudes also need to be addressed, including the provision of objective sex education,” he said.

“The Students’ Union will be renewing our call for the urgent reform of the curriculum at primary and post-primary level. Despite very welcome developments in the HEI (Higher Education Institutions) sector, including the rollout of Bystander Intervention training in UCD, trying to tackle a lack of awareness around active consent at third level is ‘fire fighting’. [This is a] constant source of frustration, too little too late. [It should] not be contingent on ethos or opt in. It is essential.”

Gray and Power acknowledged that the Bill is only the start of the process, rather than the “quick fix” solution. They expressed the importance of the propsed amendments to the Bill set forth by the IBSA campaign and the Victims Alliance campaign.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the quick action from Minister McEntee to address this issue,” Gray and Power said in a joint response to The College Tribune. “However, a bill is not a quick fix. UCD SU and Ireland as a society will have to continue working for adequate legal responses and supports.”

In particular, Gardaí reform and cooperation was the key point emphasised by the panelists in Tuesday’s discussion. This was highlighted in particular after the death by suicide of Dara Quigly in 2017, after a similar IBSA leak. “As mentioned numerous times in the panel today, legal change means very little if societal attitudes remain the same,” Power and Gray said.

While they acknowledged that these issues affect a range of individuals across Ireland, Gray mentioned that, “it is important to make a note of sex workers as they are disproportionately impacted by sexual abuse”. For this reason, the UCD SU will be working closely with SWAI among other groups during their campaign to end IBSA.

There are a number of support services available for anyone affected by instances of IBSA. “From our panel today, the main areas of support in IBSA would be SWAI and The Victims Alliance. Dublin Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid have also come forward during this time to offer support to anyone impacted by the recent sexual violence,” Gray told The College Tribune.

Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor

For anyone struggling right now, here are some supports to reach out to:

Women’s Aid:

Call: 1800 341 900

Rape Crisis Centre: 

Call: 1800 77 88 88


Call: 01 867 0701

Pieta House:

Call: 1800 247 247


Call: 01116123


Call: 1890 474 474