USI Sexual Experience Survey defaced on live online conference

Niamh Quinlan

The Sexual Experience Survey (SES) 2020 publication was hacked by an unknown person yesterday, resulting in vandalism of the slides presenting the survey’s findings.

“During the online launch of the findings of this important national research on third-level students’ experiences of sexual violence and harassment, someone unknown to USI defaced the shared screen and it was taken down immediately,” said the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), in a statement to The College View.

The survey, conducted by the USI and NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme, questioned over 6,000 students from 21 different colleges across Ireland. When presenting the results over an online Zoom call, the feed was hacked and phallic images were drawn on the presentation slides.

The SES was conducted between November of 2019 and February of 2020 to explore the sexual experiences of students in higher level. Some of the participants in the survey attended the conference and saw the vandalism, which began at the introduction of the presentation.

“Some circles started being drawn on the PowerPoint,” said Beth O’Reilly, who was attending the presentation. “And initially, I just kind of assumed it was the presenters trying to highlight certain issues, but it became very clear quite quickly that it was somebody drawing phallic symbols.”

Dean O’Reilly, Vice President for Equality and Welfare in DCU, said that it was unacceptable that someone would plan to disrupt the telling of people’s most vulnerable stories. “If you didn’t understand rape culture before, this is the perfect example of it,” he said.

“We tell society to believe victims but when victims come forward, they’re mocked, they’re vilified, they’re harassed. It highlights the need for all people across the country, especially those of us involved in students’ lives, to tackle sexual harassment and violence head on… There is no acceptable undermining of survivors,” he also said.

Beth O’Reilly said that the vandalism showed a divide between two groups in society: those that stand with survivors and those who see these survivors coming forward as an opportunity to demean survivors.

“We have to bridge the gap between people who are educating themselves and people who are wilfully ignorant,” they said.

The results of the survey showed that nearly one-third of female students and one-third of non-binary students reported non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force or threat of force. One in ten males also reported this.

Overall, 46 per cent of students questioned experienced unwanted sexual touching, attempted or completed penetration since the beginning of college. Of those assaulted, 60 per cent did not know the perpetrator.

Over half of first year students experienced sexual harassment.

35 per cent and 25 per cent of female and non-binary students, respectively, did not report the incident prior to taking part in the survey.

Half of the men surveyed didn’t report the incident and men are most likely to respond to an incident of sexual harassment against them by treating the incident as a joke.

[If details of this report are distressing to you, don’t hesitate to call the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour helpline at 1800 77 8888 or visit for more information and support.]

Niamh Quinlan

Image Credit: NUI Galway