Minister Mitchell O’Connor launches innovative Online Bystander Intervention Programme at University College Cork

-   Mary Mitchell OConnor TD

The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (28th January 2019) launched the Online Bystander Intervention Programme at University College Cork. The programme was developed by Dr Louise Crowley in the School of Law, UCC.

The programme introduces students to the concept of an ‘active bystander’: someone who recognises an event or behaviour which is objectionable and chooses to do something about it by way of intervention. It does so by educating students to ensure an understanding of the key issues of consent, and the boundaries surrounding sexual assault, rape and abusive relationships. This online programme will now be available to some 22,000 students in UCC.

The Minister said: “Sexual violence is a concern to us all, regardless of where or when it occurs. However, there is something particularly sad about it occurring at a stage in life which should be full of promise for our young people. The third level experience is a period of growth, a time for exploration and the first true experience of independence in a young person’s life. This should not be marred for anyone by the unacceptable behaviour of another.

”This programme will help build a culture of zero tolerance to prevent and combat sexual harassment and violence, both on and off campus. I would like to congratulate Dr. Louise Crowley for developing the programme and her colleagues in UCC for rolling it out across the campus. I hope that the learnings from our new initiative will be applicable in all other third level institutions.”

Through the programme, students are empowered to safely intervene and demand a safer campus and society with a zero tolerance of sexual harassment in both verbal and physical forms.

In delivering the material to the students in their capacity as bystanders, this programme highlights and addresses the dangers of the social normalisation of abusive behaviour and the importance of an environment which supports safe intervention.

Minster Mitchell O’Connor continued “Making this resource available via an online platform allows for greater levels of participation. The more people who can engage with the programme will help with the attitudinal and cultural changes that are necessary to eradicate the instances of unwanted or inappropriate behaviour that individuals can be subject to.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor convened a work shop in Dublin Castle on the 4th of October 2018, to hear first-hand from institutions, academics and students what was really happening in our higher education institutions with regard to sexual violence and harassment. Shortly after this meeting the Minister set up a working group of which Dr. Louise Crowley is a member. The group is chaired by Dr. Anne Looney from DCU and has been tasked with devising standards that all institutions will be required to implement. The group will report back to the Minister shortly.

As part of the University’s inaugural Bystander Intervention Week, UCC will unveil a mural on Monday, aimed at challenging the prevalence of sexual assault among students at third level. The mural is part of the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s national IT STOPS NOW campaign, and will be pasted to the wall of the Boole library by students.

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