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Survey on sexual harassment to reveal true experiences of third level students and staff – Carroll MacNeill

26th November 2020 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

Today’s announcement from Minister Simon Harris confirming a survey into bullying and sexual harassment in higher education institutions, will offer a platform for students and staff to share their first-hand experience of the endemic sexual violence within our HEIs, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

The Dún Laoghaire TD welcomed the announcement from the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, which follows a letter last July from the Minister to Presidents of HEIs requiring the development of specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “I welcome today’s news from Minister Harris that the HEA will be working with higher education institutions to undertake a survey on sexual harassment and bullying of both staff and students in our HEIs.

“Sexual violence must not be a routine experience for any young man or woman during their time in university. Today’s announcement is one of the first, but by no means the last steps in putting an end to sexual and gender-based violence in our universities and colleges.

“It’s important that both students and staff feel that their voices are being heard and are offered a platform to share their experiences. It’s particularly important to offer this platform within HEIs due to the extremely low levels of reporting of sexual assault by students.

“The results from the survey will provide us with quantitative and qualitative data which will be used to inform decisions and policy-making going forward. Today’s announcement means that Government policies will be informed by the individual experiences of students and staff in our third level institutions.

“Over the past few months, I’ve met with University student unions and the Irish Secondary Schools Union for whom consent and sexual violence is a real concern. I welcome today’s step from the Minister and while action plans and surveys are key components of tackling sexual violence at third level, what we ultimately need is to break this cycle of sexual violence. The only way to truly break it is with a comprehensive and very new and very different approach to relationship and sexual education.

“Consent classes at third level must continue. But research indicates that education at this stage of development for young adults is far too late to prevent incidents of assault. The response we need to end this endemic sexual and gender violence is the education of personhood and respect for our five year olds and beyond.”

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