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sexual violence

Harris launches guide for third level institutions to end sexual violence and harassment

Institutions will be instructed to record statistics on harassment, assault, and rape and report them to the Higher Education Authority.

MINISTER FOR FURTHER and Higher Education Simon Harris has launched a framework in collaboration with the National Women’s Council aimed at ending sexual violence and harassment in higher education institutions.

The guide aims to assist Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in properly recording incidents and collaborating with rape crisis centers and other stakeholders.

Minister Harris stated today:

“Today, we have the funding secured to recruit 17 new positions across third level to lead on our objectives. In 2020, consent classes were taken up by 7,306 students. So far this year, 22,569 classes were taken up by students.”

“This has been a joint effort. Today is another important step too.”

“There is a particular responsibility on those charged with educating the next generation to ensure that their students and staff are equipped to lead the change required for a society where sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated.”

The framework address changes to the policies and cultures of HEIs and has recommended that a member of senior management in each institution have responsibility for the implementation of its guidelines.

Institutions will also be instructed to record statistics on harassment, assault, and rape and report them to the Higher Education Authority.

As well as a formal disclosure process, HEIs are also advised to develop an easy-to-use online system for students to disclose and report incidents anonymously.

The guide also recommends that HEIs seek out relationships with local domestic violence NGOs and rape crisis centers, local Sexual Assault Treatment Units, and local Protective Services Units within a Garda Síochána. 

Survey data from the Central Statistics Office released last week found that younger people reported higher levels of sexual violence while 80% of those who experienced sexual violence knew the perpetrator.

Director of the National Women’s Council, Orla O’Connor, said:

 “1 in 2 women will experience sexual violence during their lifetime and 1 in 5 will experience non-consensual sexual intercourse, which is rape. These latest CSO statistics are a stark reminder of the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment for women, with a significant and often long-term impact on all aspects of the victim’s life.”

“Sexual violence and harassment happen in all spheres of life and are not limited to education providers. However, Higher Educations Institutions are uniquely placed to take a leadership role and have proven to do so over the last few years.”

“Importantly, this has shifted the onus from survivors speaking out and demanding change, to Higher Education Institutions embracing the challenge of creating a zero tolerance culture.

“We sincerely hope the Good Practice Guide will be a useful tool for Higher Education Institutions across Ireland,” she said. 

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