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Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats spokesperson for Higher Education, has called for immediate action after frightening levels of sexual violence and harassment in Irish third level education were highlighted during a meeting between Minister Simon Harris and the National Advisory Committee on Consent and Sexual Harassment.

Deputy Cairns said:

“The alarming rates of rape, sexual assault and harassment in our colleges and universities can only be described as an epidemic. Research carried out by Active Consent NUIG and the Union of Students in Ireland this year revealed that 29% of female, 10% of male and 28% of non-binary students reported serious sexual assault during their time in college. There needs to be immediate and comprehensive action on this.

“The commitment by the Minister for Higher Education to address this epidemic is welcome. But with the start of a new academic year only a few weeks away, it is urgent to get clear action plans and resourcing in place now.

“There needs to be a greater focus on supporting victims and prosecuting perpetrators. We urgently need to address the cultural and societal problems that exacerbate, buttress and defend these crimes. Universities and colleges have made progress in this area, but it is clear that much more needs to be done.

“The upcoming relationship and sexual education programme for primary and secondary education also needs to be accelerated to help address this crisis. In addition, when discussing issues around sexual assault and rape, it is crucial to highlight how the current justice system treats victims, which can often be an incentive not to report rape.

“We’ve seen victims treated like they are on trial, vilified and then discredited by a misogynistic legal system. We can’t expect victims to keep trying to defy the odds when they’re so stacked up against them.”

July 29, 2020

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