€1.5 million allocated for sexual violence and harassment prevention in colleges

Government has launched a new implementation plan to support a zero tolerance policy of sexual harassment in higher education institutions

The government has revealed a new higher education sexual violence and harassment, which aims to tackle issues related to sexual violence and harassment in higher education institutions (HEIs).

The plan includes €1.5 million in funding, which will support the appointment of Sexual Violence and Harassment (SVH) Prevention and Response managers in HEIs.

The new implementation plan, which includes the 2022-2024 period, aims to build upon and complement the initiatives already in place to support a “zero tolerance” approach to issues of sexual violence and harassment in HEIs.

Speaking yesterday, Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, said: “I have been very clear that the tertiary education and training sector must lead the way in changing cultures, behaviours and practices across society to ensure that sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated.”

“There is a particular responsibility on those charged with educating the next generation in ensuring that their students and learners are equipped to lead the change more widely across society.”

A survey of almost 8,000 students and 3,500 staff across all third-level institutions last year asked respondents about their experiences of sexual harassment and violence.

Of the almost 6,000 that responded to questions on sexual violence, 14% said that someone “had oral sex with them while they were incapacitated and unable to give consent”. 7% said that this had happened when they were physically forced to do so.

Of the almost 3,000 women that responded, 34.2% said that they had experienced rape.

Two thirds of respondents said that they have experienced sexual harassment at least once.

The #UnmuteConsent campaign was also launched at the beginning of this month as a collaboration of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

The campaign seeks to combat sexual violence and harassment by encouraging students to speak out against unacceptable behaviour and access support, as well as challenging perceived norms of unacceptable behaviour.