Wednesday 20 November 2019

It's never too late or early to learn about sexual consent

Many students are uncertain about what constitutes sexual assault and rape
Many students are uncertain about what constitutes sexual assault and rape

Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

In January, Trinity College Dublin Students' Union delivered the results of their 'Sexual Consent Survey 2015'.

More than 1,000 students took part in the research and the results were shocking - 25pc of the females and 5pc of males said they had experienced a non-consensual sexual experience.

In 2013, the Union of Students of Ireland published a report on student experiences of sexual violence, harassment and stalking. Over 2,750 third level students took part in the research.

Again the results were shocking. One in five women experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience; 19pc of men and 17pc of women had been photographed or filmed without their consent.

Many students are uncertain about what constitutes sexual assault and rape.

However, confusion about what constitutes rape and sexual assault does not alleviate the blame of anyone who commits an offence.

It is vital that young people have the opportunity to be informed and to think through sexual behaviour before they are placed in situations which are confusing, and beyond their capacity to navigate.

Young people are surrounded by and constantly absorbing sexualised messages. Music and advertising is increasingly pornographied.

To leave children and young people to find their own way through the minefield of misinformation and mixed messages is completely unfair and dangerous.

Adults have a responsibility to support and assist young people in being able to understand and withstand the pressures they are put under, to be accurately informed so that they are equipped to respond in a way that they are protected from harm.

It is imperative that age-related programmes are delivered in schools from primary, to secondary to third-level Institutions.

It is never too early or too late to learn. The age of consent is 17. Sexual contact without consent is assault.

Sexual intercourse without consent is rape.

Rape is the second most serious crime on our statute books, whether it happens on a date, at a drunken party or within an intimate partner relationship to include marriage, and it carries a penalty of up to life in prison.

Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop is CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

Irish Independent

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