NUI Galway are developing a new national initiative that will give secondary schools access to sexual consent workshops for transition year students.
The workshop will be for students aged 16 and upward will focus on what ‘active consent’ is and how to identify it. It will be tailored to each individual school it takes place in.
The project is headed by Dr Padraig MacNeela of the NUIG Psychology department, who also leads the SMART Consent project. This initiative was the first of its kind, a workshop introduced to third level schools in 2016 about sexual consent.
The objective of the new workshop is to explore “all the different dimensions of consent” and to define it clearly where some may be unsure if the answer is yes or no.
MacNeela said that they believe ‘active consent’ is defined as “freely given, verbal or non-verbal communication of a feeling of willingness to engage in sexual activity”.
Over the course of the next four years, researchers will be working with a range of schools and other organisations to perfect the workshop before implementation.
MacNeela said that the same steps of SMART Consent will be applied, however, they plan to “carry out original primary research with students in schools who are teenagers, and build a whole new set of materials and activities that meet the needs and opportunities in schools”.
Researcher Dr Siobhan O’Higgins said that the aim of the workshop is to move away from passive consent and towards active, and to reinforce what is a clear sign that means “yes”.
“Passive consent is too confusing,” said O’Higgins. “You don’t know that it’s there.”
They aim to do this by finding out from the students what they feel is important with regard to intimacy of any kind and reinforcing the workshop from a “sex positive” point of view. The workshop will not only highlight how to respect the boundaries of others but how to respect and discover one’s own boundaries, which the young student may not have even considered before.
MacNeela explained how it’s just as important to introduce workshops such as these to second level students also.“We have in mind to be unique in having a consistent message in schools and colleges, which will be linked to people’s needs at these different times in their lives.”
The overall aim is that these skills of identifying consent stay with the students for life.
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