Dec 19 2017 Posted: 15:53 GMT

The School of Psychology at NUI Galway has today published a new report on Sexual Health and Attitudes. It is the first comprehensive survey of sexual behaviour and sexual assault in an emerging adulthood college population (aged 18-29).

The survey was carried out at NUI Galway by Elaine Byrnes and Pádraig MacNeela, in 2015. It provides a baseline understanding of college students’ sexual health, behaviour and attitudes, both positive and negative sexual experiences. Also, findings reflect the impact of alcohol on decisions to have sex and unwanted sexual activity as a result of alcohol consumption.

Padraig MacNeela, School of Psychology at NUI Galway said: “This survey incorporated standardised questionnaire tools that have been researched and validated internationally. The report sheds light on how these factors occur in an Irish context. In many cases this is the first time that some of these measures have been used outside the US, and the first time they have been reported on in an Irish context.”

Elaine Byrnes, Doctoral Researcher on the PhD in Child & Youth Research at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway said: “The results of this survey show the incidence of sexual violence and assault are comparable to international studies of college students, and highlight the need for a national study of third level students on this issue. Findings on alcohol related sex consequences, particularly where students report being forced or pressured into sexual activity, highlights the importance of continuing consent education; how it is understood and communicated, and the role of alcohol in sexual decision making.”

Dr Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience at NUI Galway, and John Hannon, Director of Student Services, said: “We at NUI Galway are committed to supporting and enhancing the holistic development of students attending our institution. These data will contribute to informing further development of policies and services in the area of sexual health on our campus.”

Key findings on student sexual health, behaviour and attitudes include:

  • In the past 12 months, 8% of females and 3% of males were certain someone had sexual contact with them where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep and are certain this happened
  • In the past 12 months, 8% of females and 4% of males were uncertain but suspected sexual contact where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep
  • 27% of females and 35% of males agree with the statement “Guys don’t usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away”
  • 75% of females and 55.5% of males are extremely/very likely to confront a friend who plans to give someone alcohol to get sex
  • 76% of females and 69% of males agree they are less nervous about sex after drinking
  • 35% of females and 58% of males agree they have sex with people with whom they wouldn’t sober
  • 58% of females and 69% of males agree that hooking up is part of the college experience
  • 90% of females and 86% of males agree/strongly agree they would use body language or signals to indicate their consent to sex
  • 73% of females and 77.5% of males agree/strongly agree they would ask a partner if he/she wanted to go back to their place to communicate consent to sex
  • 5% of females in a relationship agree they are satisfied with their sex life compared to 26.5% of single females
  • 56% of males in a relationship agree if they could live their sex lives over, would change nothing, compared with 21% of single males

Niamh Murtagh, Vice President for Welfare at the USI also welcomed the Report, “This report demonstrates the necessity of such vital information, and will form the backbone of initiatives that will be rolled out in our third level institutions. In turn, this will enable the enrichment of student health, wellbeing and their welfare in college setting.”

The main author of the report is Elaine Byrnes, Doctoral Researcher in Child & Youth Research at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. The co-author is Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway.

To read the full Report (SHAG – Sexual Health Attitudes, Galway) visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/smartconsent

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