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June 2015 Seminar on sexual health research to explore issues of consent
A research seminar takes place in NUI Galway today focussing on sexual health research with university students, and in particular the issue of sexual consent. The seminar, ‘Sexual Health and Alcohol Use: The Need for Evidence-Based, Theory-Led Strategies to Address Sexual Assault and Promote Active Consent Among Young Adults’ is organised by the School of Psychology at NUI Galway in conjunction with Galway Alcohol Forum and Healthy Cities Initiative.
The results of multidisciplinary research carried out across several institutions in social marketing, theatre and drama studies, and psychology will be presented at the event. This includes survey data from approximately 1,500 students across two institutions on sexual assault, on how consent is typically expressed, frequency and comfort of engaging in different sexual activities, associations between alcohol use and sexual behaviour, and other topics in the sexual health field.
“We wish to promote the idea of consent being active, on-going, and clearly expressed, as our research suggests that it is currently a grey area for many students”, explains Dr Pádraig McNeela, Lecturer at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. “It is important to consider how this lack of clarity might contribute to the problem of sexual assault, and a culture that might perpetuate gender-based harassment and violence. It is also essential that we promote a positive approach to sexual relationships where people feel confident to express their preferences and make informed decisions.”
In addition, it will show how these quantitative findings, when combined with qualitative exploration of attitudes and expectations for consent, have the potential to be employed in new strategies that promote active consent. Specifically, the seminar will report on a community theatre project that inspired students to create a dramatic representation of the ‘grey areas’ associated with consent; and the ‘Smart Consent’ workshop that brings students into contact with theory and evidence using innovative techniques. In addition to funding from the Galway Alcohol Forum, the researchers have the support of the Irish Research Council New Foundations scheme, NUI Galway Students’ Union, NUI Galway Student Services, and the Confederation of Student Services in Ireland.
“We also hope to discuss these initiatives in light of social marketing survey findings demonstrating that, for students, sexual health is a key priority that requires action,” added Dr McNeela.