A national survey of college students in Ireland found that 29% of female, 28% of non-binary, and 10% of male students stated that they had experienced “non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force, or threat of force” while attending college.

Run by NUI Galway’s Active Consent Programme in conjunction with the Union of Students in Ireland, ‘The Sexual Experiences Survey’ was completed by 6,026 students between February and April. The survey aimed to document the experiences of sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexist harassment faced by Irish college students in higher education. The report hopes to inform the implementation of the ‘Consent Framework’ being drawn up by the Department of Education and skills.

According to the report, half of all men who had experienced nonconsensual penetration had never told anyone before taking part in the survey, along with 37% of women and 33% of non-binary students. When asked why they did not disclose the incident previously, half of all female respondents and a third of all male and non-binary respondents stated they felt that it was “not serious enough”.

More than half of all first-year respondents said that they had experienced some form of sexual hostility in college. Sexist hostility was the most common form of harassment experienced by students.

USI Vice-President for Welfare, Róisín O’Donovan said: “In the survey just over 70 per cent of respondents who experienced sexual misconduct said they don’t understand what happens when a student reports an incident to their college, while only 16 per cent, again who had an experience, said they had received information on where to get help from their institution and only just under 10 per cent said they knew how to report an incident. These are areas that can be addressed very quickly by Higher Institutions and that needs to be one of the on-campus actions taken as a result of these survey findings.”

One of the report’s co-authors, Dr Pádraig MacNeela of NUI Galway said- “The SES survey findings provide a stark depiction of the experiences that many students have had. Over 1,000 of the female students who took part in the survey described incidents that correspond to rape, while one-quarter of male students said they had been subject to sexual misconduct during their time in college. Bisexual, non-binary, and queer students described particularly high levels of sexual harassment.”

MacNeela continued- “The survey findings also reveal positives about our campus climate. Most students took part in events, workshops, or other initiatives designed to prevent sexual misconduct. Those who took part were a lot more likely to be aware of supports and services.”

In recent months, University College Dublin (UCD) has introduced a number of measures to help deal with the issues highlighted by the survey. UCD formally introduced an anonymous “Report + Support” reporting tool for the college’s students in March. With the tool, any member of the UCD community can report all forms of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. Report + Support is available now at reportandsupport.ucd.ie.
The college announced that all incoming freshers for the 2020-21 academic year would be required to attend a 90-minute class on preventing sexual assault.

Trinity College Dublin was one of nine colleges which signed up to a project which pledged €80,000 of funding to create an anonymous reporting tool for students facing sexual assault and harassment.

For anyone affected by anything in this article, the following centres and organisations are available for support:

Dublin Rape Crisis Center – 1800 77 8888 / https://www.drcc.ie/

The UCD Student Union – UCD 24/7 Emergency Line: 01 716 7999

Pieta House – CALL FREE on 1800 247 247 / TEXT HELP to 51444

Hugh Dooley – Deputy News Editor