Minister Simon Harris Launches NUI Galway’s New Toolkit for Consent Education

Monday, 21 September 2020

Toolkit
Active* Consent Toolkit cover. Photo: NUI Galway

  • Active* Consent Toolkit includes eLearning module to close gaps in students’ understanding of sexual violence and harassment, including the legal definition of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services 
  • The comprehensive Toolkit for consent education will be rolled out across 22 Higher Education Institutions featuring new resources and research released led by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today (21 September 2020) launched the Active* Consent Toolkit: Developing a Consent Strategy for your Higher Education Institution, produced by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme.

The Active* Consent Toolkit:

  • Offers guidance to Higher Education Institutions in developing an Action Plan on consent, sexual violence and harassment, as well as addressing consent education through a sustainable and joined up strategy across each campus community.
  • Provides resources and research from NUI Galway’s new online Active* Consent Programme designed to meet the call for consent education for all students in 2020-2021.
  • Is aimed at Higher Education staff and administrators, including managers, academic, and support staff; Student representatives working with their Students’ Unions, Societies and Sports Clubs, or on behalf of their academic disciplines; and the wider community including external stakeholders such as the rape crisis movement, advocacy groups, and post-primary education. 

This toolkit on practical resources, research, and strategy development comes at a time when all Higher Education institutions have been requested by Minister Harris to devise Action Plans to address consent, sexual violence and harassment in third level education, including making consent workshops, developed by NUI Galway, available to all students.

Minister Simon Harris, said: “The Sexual Experiences Survey clearly shows us there is so much work to be done. We have to do more to raise awareness and support students, and the Active Consent Toolkit will greatly assist institutions in a really practical way. I want to see all of our higher education institutions further embed the Consent Framework into their policies and procedures so as to ensure a deep and lasting impact. All institutions have now been asked to develop and publish, by February next, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment and provide an annual report on their progress in implementing the Framework. I believe the higher education sector to take on a leadership role in our societal response to sexual violence and harassment, and these are important steps forward to advance that aim.” 

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I'd like to thank Minister Harris for attending today’s virtual launch of this very important Toolkit and welcome his prioritisation of this critical issue by making consent workshops mandatory and available to all students. I would also like to congratulate the Active* Consent team at NUI Galway for the excellent work and leadership they have shown throughout the ongoing development of this programme and the workshops that have been openly shared and sustainably scaled up to the 22 Higher Education Institutions to date.

“Respect for our students and staff is one of our University’s core values which we take very seriously. Education and support around the subject of consent for our student community is a critical learning component that should be made available to everyone during their university journey. Supporting the safety, health and wellbeing of our students and staff is our top priority.”

Taking into account the impact of Covid-19, the Toolkit features a new three-stage Higher Education Institution consent education programme for 2020-2021 that can be delivered fully online – and which makes direct use of the findings from the Active* Consent/Union of Students in Ireland ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ released in June 2020. Stage One of this new programme, the Active* Consent Online Workshop, will be rolled out to First Year students across 22 Irish Higher Education Institutions and counting in autumn 2020.

As part of the toolkit, Active* Consent is also launching an eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers, available for use from 15, October 2020.

This Active* Consent eLearning module helps to close gaps in students’ understanding of sexual violence and harassment as reported in the ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’, including the legal definition of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services. Students will be active participants, taking part in quizzes, polls, and activities to support learning about consent, sexual violence and harassment, and responding to case studies to find out how to support peers with empathic communication and by taking action to intervene when they see something that is harmful.

Dr Padraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “Our latest research shows that teenagers in schools and young adults in colleges strongly support the idea that consent means having the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and having their partners hear and respect these preferences. But the research also shows that the confidence to act on this understanding can be undermined by embarrassment and shame, including misperceptions of what your peers actually think. There is also now evidence to show that a number of young people either agree with or do not actively reject misinformed and potentially harmful rape myths.”

Key new research findings included in the Active* Consent Toolkit

This complex picture of consent is demonstrated by findings from NUI Galway’s ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ last June that have not been released before that include:

  • 37% of female college students and 53% of male college students gave a ‘neutral’ or ‘agree’ response when asked whether asking for consent is awkward.
  • 63% of female college students and 37% of male college students said they were ‘very likely’ to say something to intervene if a friend was taking a drunk person back to their room at a party.
  • 26% of female college students and 51% of male college students gave a ‘neutral’ or ‘agree’ response to the rape myth that, if a girl initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a guy assumes she wants to have sex.

Dr Charlotte McIvor, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead and Editor of the Active* Consent Toolkit, NUI Galway said: “The Toolkit offers significant opportunities for learning, culture and behaviour change in the area of sexual violence and harassment in higher education, not only doubling down on the Active* Consent Programme’s key message that Consent is OMFG (ongoing, mutual and freely-given) through an accessible and comprehensive usable toolkit format but also providing a new fresh vision of how to work together sustainably within and across Higher Education Institutions to achieve lasting change in these areas.”

Dr Pádraig MacNeela, concluded: “Schools and colleges are important settings for education on positive, active consent that in turn works against tolerance of sexual violence and harassment. The Consent Framework for colleges is one of the best strategies available internationally for enabling the Higher Education sector to seize the opportunity to achieve this potential – and in providing support for colleges to meet the challenges faced while developing the capacity to do so. By providing supports like the Consent Toolkit, we are asking our colleges to embrace change on all levels, to work together to meet the needs of those affected by sexual violence and harassment, and to promote a culture of positive, active consent consistent with healthy development.”

To receive a toolkit please email activeconsent@nuigalway.ie and for further information about the Active* Consent Programme, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/student-life/student-support/active-consent/ or on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/activeconsent/

-Ends-

Keywords: Press.

Author: Marketing and Communications, NUI Galway
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