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College consent classes too little, too late

A proposal to compel third level institutions to provide sexual consent classes or risk losing funding was floated last week after it was recommended in a Government-commissioned report.

The report, which was sought by the Minister for State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor raised concerns about the levels of sexual assaults happening on Irish college campuses.

One of the key recommendations is that colleges and universities should make workshops and classes on consent and sexual violence available to students.

This is in theory a positive proposal but in reality is just lip service. There is no doubt that there is a need for awareness about sexual consent and of course sexual assault which every young person knows is a crime, but if we are to wait until they start college to address it, then this could be problematic.

The matter of consent has never been more discussed and this is a good thing, but at the very heart of the issue, is the fundamental issue of right and wrong. This needs to be addressed by parents and educators long before a teenager goes off to college. It should be part of everyday learning, just like any other topic that may crop up along the way - a life lesson.

The number of incidents of sexual violence recorded on college campuses was a contributing factor to having this report drawn up, and they cannot be ignored, but should be treated just as any other criminal act.

Certainly the fact that any such crime is committed on a college campus should not render it less serious, but this needs to be impressed upon students.

If there is a misconception that it is in some way, more socially acceptable, then this is what needs to be addressed, not token gesture consent classes, which incidentally, would not be attended by those most likely to offend.

Consent classes cannot realistically be made compulsory in any third level institution. The students are adults and while even if classes were available, I don't think they would help combat the actions of any potential sexual predators.

We're probably not talking attackers in the bushes here, but rather incidents of assault reported on campus accommodation where the issue of consent would be raised, but both need to be addressed long before the college years, for everyone's benefit.