Tuesday 19 March 2019

Secondary school students to get classes on sexual consent

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Teenagers are to be taught about sexual consent as part of a new programme to be introduced in schools in the new year, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Transition Year students are to get 12 hours of training that educators believe will challenge their preconceptions about consent and sexual violence.

The programme running over six two-hour classes aims to equip young people to be able to give informed consent.

These sessions engage with the students, challenging ideas of what consent is, allowing them to debate their opinions on sexual violence and how it affects them in their lives.

Participants will be asked to describe consent and to recognise what helps and hinders asking for or giving consent.

The programme will explore a range of ways to prevent sexual violence from happening.

This includes developing a shared respect for boundaries, the right to say no, and bodily integrity.

It also explores safe options for dealing with challenging behaviour and explores a campaign to engage males in the prevention of rape and sexual violence.

The Government-supported programme is being established to build on the work of a foundation established in memory of Manuela Riedo.

It is now a decade since the rape and murder of the 17-year old Swiss student in Galway shocked the country.

The specially developed 'early intervention' course will be offered to 16-year-olds in 60 schools under a partnership between the child and family agency Tusla, frontline agencies and the Manuela Riedo Foundation.

The move is being championed by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who told the Irish Independent: "The #MeToo campaign made 2017 a watershed year in terms of raising awareness about sexual harassment, abuse and violence."

The hashtag became a worldwide phenomenon in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein.

"However, raising awareness is not enough. We must also act," Ms Zappone said.

"The Rape Crisis Centres have been doing terrific work in educating our young people on the issues involved, as has the Manuela Riedo Foundation.

"But Government too has a responsibility."

She said the introduction of a 'Manuela Programme' marks a "positive first step" by officials and it will include 1,500 young people in the coming months.

"I will be encouraging Tusla, frontline services and our youth organisations to engage further to see if other ways can be found to reach more teenagers.

"It is my goal that the experiences we gain in the coming months will also be used to introduce this education into the mainstream syllabus, making it available to every young person in the country," she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Zappone is also set to announce extra funding worth €1.7m for frontline services involved in combating sexual and domestic violence.

Irish Independent

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