First year college year students must be aware of the very real dangers posed by sexual violence and coercive control, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has warned.
The Dun Laoghaire TD, who is Vice-Chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party welcomes today’s announcement from Minister Simon Harris that colleges will be required to publish action plans on sexual harassment and consent.
Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “A third of female students have reported that they have been raped. Two thirds have reported having been sexually harassed. Sexual assault is an epidemic in this country. And yet we don’t have accurate data around the prevalence of it in our third level institutions.
“I had a conversation today with UCD Students’ Union officers about the importance of sexual education and consent for young people. They highlighted the incidence of rape and sexual abuse in third level institutions. This threat is especially significant for incoming first year students who can be particularly vulnerable to such violence.
“I am pleased Minister Harris has committed to an annual survey to obtain accurate data on the number of students and staff experiencing sexual harassment.
“Students can be particularly vulnerable to coercive control. Away from the support network of family and friends, students can find themselves isolated in abusive and controlling relationships. We only need to look to the case of Scottish student Emily Drouet, who took her own life having been subjected to a campaign of abuse and violence from her boyfriend, to see the actual impact of coercive control on students.
“As young people transition from secondary school to third level education, alongside greater independence comes a significant risk of rape and sexual abuse. Many students leave the security and safety of home behind as they move away and begin living independently. The very real experience of this is illustrated in the video Control – The Story Of An Abusive Relationship, which I would encourage students and parents to watch.
“Sexual harassment and rape are not problems unique to third level institutions. We need root and branch reform and we need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. It must begin with sexual education in our schools, and the implementation of a comprehensive and national consent framework across our colleges. Education is key and I am pleased Minister Harris is taking the lead on this.”