Nine Irish colleges join online system to report sexual assault

Nine Irish colleges have signed up to an online system that will allow students to anonymously report experiences of sexual assault.

Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, Maynooth and the University of Limerick are among the colleges that have entered the €80,000 scheme, which is funded by the Department of Education.

The system is being developed by Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education in Ireland alongside the nine participating colleges. It will be available on each of the colleges’ websites and will resemble an online form. The system is due to be up and running by the start of the next academic year.

DCU is not one of the third level institutions taking part in the initiative. DCU Students’ Union Vice President for Welfare and Equality Aisling Fagan explained that for now, “the university is taking steps independently to combat the issue on campus.”

“The Students’ Union and other university representatives are members of the national advisory committee for the Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third Level Education (ESHTE)” Fagan said.

“We work alongside all other higher education institutions, as well as the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Gardaí, the USI, and others who are involved in initiatives to combat this issue nationally and locally,” Fagan continued.

Fagan also explained that the SU was ensuring the implementation of the ‘Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions’ framework that was issued by the Department of Education and Skills last year.

This document was launched in April of 2019 by Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who lost her seat in the recent general election.

The paper, which was assembled by an expert advisory group offered suggestions and guidelines for Higher Education Institutions in “developing a comprehensive, yearround proactive response, with the aim of preventing sexual violence and promoting positive, active consent”.

The document called on the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education to support Irish colleges to “develop processes for recording and reporting on incident of sexual harassment, assault and rape on third-level campuses”.

Mitchell O’Connor made consent a key issue during her tenure as Minister of State for Higher Education.

“Sexual harassment and violence is a part of the higher educational experience for all too many students and particularly girls and women,” Mitchell O’Connor said. “We pride ourselves in providing excellence in education but we must also pride ourselves in providing a safe learning environment,” she added.

Calum Atkinson 

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