#UnmuteConsent campaign 2023 launched across third-level institutions

The consent awareness campaign seeks to combat sexual violence and harassment in third-level education

The 2023 #UnmuteConsent campaign was launched yesterday by representative bodies of students and higher education institutions, alongside the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Seeking to combat sexual violence and harassment in higher education, the awareness campaign aims to educate the student community on the importance of consent and encourage them “to make a difference, by speaking out, by enhancing their own knowledge about consent, and ultimately, by challenging and changing behaviours”. 

The digital campaign also aims “to increase levels of knowledge and skills among students” on reporting procedures and accessing personal supports. The campaign is designed to “promote an understanding of consent; student understanding and skills for speaking up and calling out unacceptable behaviour”.

This years #UnmuteConsent campaign is a collaboration between the HEA, the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). 

Reflecting on last year’s campaign Dr Marie Connolly, Chair of the IUA Vice Presidents of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group said: “Following the remarkable reach of the #UnmuteConsent campaign in 2022 we are delighted that IUA is in a position to lead this campaign again this year.”

“Our ambition is for a safe and respectful third-level experience for staff and students and we know that a culture of speaking about consent can help transform how we as a society respond to unacceptable behaviour”, she added.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris TD welcomed the campaign saying: “Sexual harassment or sexual violence doesn’t start or end in third-level education, but education is the greatest tool to dismantling this culture that has crept into our society. We all have a role to play to ensure that we create a culture of zero tolerance, which will contribute to a change in attitudes and increased awareness.

 “There is a particular responsibility on those charged with educating the next generation in ensuring that students and learners are equipped to lead the change across society. The #Unmuteconsent campaign 2023 recognises the power of the student voice to drive change. Be the generation that stands up and speaks out, to create a respectful environment for everyone — on and off our campuses”, he added.

The HEA’s head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sheena Duffy said: “We are delighted to support the third iteration of the #unmuteconsent campaign, which is an important element of the work ongoing across the higher education sector to address sexual violence and harassment.”

“The campaign will make a significant contribution towards a campus culture in which every member of the higher education community feels safe, respected and supported, and in which sexual violence and harassment will not be tolerated. It also plays a vital role in signposting the crucial support services available to those who may need them”, she continued.

The campaign was informed by a survey conducted in 2021 about sexual misconduct in higher education institutions in Ireland.