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3 in 10 female third-level students have experienced non-consensual penetration, survey finds

That’s according to a new national survey published by NUI Galway’s Active Consent Programme.

ALMOST THREE IN 10 female students have reported non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force or threat of force during their time in college, according to a new survey. 

Today, NUI Galway’s Active Consent Programme, in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), launched its national sexual experiences survey. 

It is the first national survey addressing university students’ sexual experiences in eight years. A total of 6,026 students completed the survey between February and April 2020. 

The survey found that 29% of female, 10% of male and 28% of non-binary students reported non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force or threat of force during their time in college.

Of the students who reported experiencing non-consensual penetration through force or threat of force, or while incapacitated and unable to give consent, 49% of male, 35% of female and 25% of non-binary students said they have not disclosed this incident to anyone prior to taking part in the survey. 

Among this group of students who did not disclose, 54% of female, 37% of male, and 33% of non-binary students said they did not disclose the incident because they thought it was not serious enough.

Just over half of first year students reported experiencing sexual harassment in the form of some form of sexual hostility since beginning college. This rose to 62% for second year students, and 66% for undergraduate students in third year or higher.

Over half of students with a disability reported an experience of sexual misconduct by any tactic (56%), compared with 42% of other students.

Those undergraduate students who had attended workshops, events, and talks related to sexual conduct consistently reported higher awareness of supports and services compared with students who had no exposure to consent education of this kind.

The sexual experiences survey collected online survey responses from approximately 6,026 students, with coverage of 21 third level campuses across the Republic of Ireland. 

“The survey shows there is a gap that our colleges need to make up in order to respond to students’ needs,” Dr Lorraine Burke, NUI Galway post-doctoral researcher and report co-author, said. 

“Not only the needs of the large percentage of students who are directly affected by sexual misconduct and harassment, but also their peers – the people they are most likely to share these experiences with and who will be best placed as active bystanders to prevent future incidents,” Dr Burke said. 

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