Monday 24 July 2017

Rape victim: sexual consent is a problem in universities

Megan Nolan went public about her rape
Megan Nolan went public about her rape
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A rape victim and former TCD student says the introduction by the university of mandatory sexual consent workshops are the "bare minimum" needed to address an "enormous" problem in many third-level campuses.

In a landmark decision the university has decided new undergraduates, living in fresher accommodation at Trinity Hall in Rathmines, will be expected to attend the workshops.

From September, students will take classes modelled on "compulsory consent courses", currently in place for first-year students at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

The content of the workshops has yet to be decided, but they will be promoted as "mandatory" by TCD.

If the classes prove successful it could lead to a campus-wide course being implemented.

Megan Nolan was an 18-year-old student at Trinity when she was raped.

She said a sea-change in attitudes among students about what constitutes sexual consent was needed. She stressed compulsory instruction should be the beginning of a "radical refusal of male violence".

Consent lessons are the bare minimum attempt to address an enormous problem which "shames us all", she added.

"I discovered, years after my own assault, that I knew several other women who had endured the exact same particular circumstances I had.

"Would our attackers have been deterred by consent lessons? There is a chance, a not insubstantial one, that a pervasive and commonly expressed disgust for such acts would cause a potential rapist to fear social consequences.

"There is a chance that if such a culture existed, I would have immediately reported my rape and felt no shame about the fact I had been drinking.

"As it was, I kept it secret for an infeasibly long time, by which point my mental health had deteriorated to the extent I hadn't seen a pre-3pm sky for six months and had long since dropped out."

Shane Rice, head of the JCR, the student committee which supports more than 1,000 students at Trinity Hall, said: "We want to dispel the myths around sexual assault. We need to start a conversation about what really constitutes the concept of consent."

Other initiatives being worked on include "more support groups, further consent-specific training of counsellors and tutors as well as a consent video" due to be launched next month.

A survey last year found that just over 25pc of female students and 5pc of male students at Trinity had been subjected to an unwanted sexual experience.

Just under a third of female respondents had experienced unwanted physical contact while studying at TCD or in a TCD social setting, compared with 8pc for men.

Irish Independent

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