Trinity joins eight other Irish colleges in developing an €80,000 online system for students to anonymously report sexual assault and harassment. The project will be funded by the Department of Education and is intended for use as early as next academic year.
Chairperson of the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland, Gertie Raftery stated that the system “will enable us to finally get some real data on the extent of the probelm of sexual harassment and violence in third level institutions.” She continued, stating: “It will, we hope, give a voice to the voiceless.”
Data collected from the system, which will be an anonymous form on each participating third level institution’s respective websites, will be used to help shape sex and consent education.
Rachel Skelly, the Graduate Intern for Sexual Consent Education and Development in Trinitu stated that: “this data, which represents our college community’s experiences, will be used to direct our educational campaigns and our policy. This project has given us a wonderful opportunity to make real changes to the lives of our staff and students, both now and in the future.”
Other institutions who have signed up to participate in this system include NUI Galway, Maynooth University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Limerick Institute of Technology, Maynooth University, and the University of Limerick.
University College Dublin (UCD) will not take part in the project at this time, but has established their own independent reporting system which has already been launched.
The current funding will provide access to the system for one year, after which colleges will need to re-apply for the Department of Education funding or source alternative funds.
The issue of consent has been a focus of the outgoing Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who launched a framework in April 2019 through which institutions can address sexual violence on campuses.
“Sexual violence and harassment has no place in our institutions. It is unacceptable that any student, researcher or staff member should experience” O’Connor stated at the launch of her 2019 initiative.
When asked by TheJournal.ie about allegations of sexual misconduct in the past year, UCD reported three investigations of sexual misconduct since 1 January 2019, and two allegations. Technical University Dublin reported two investigations while NUI Galway reported only one investigation which remains ongoing. Maynooth reported “a very small number of cases” but did not provide details for the protection of the identity of the individuals involved. DCU reported no allegations in the last year, and Trinity refused to provide information.