Sexual assault awareness campaign to launch in UCD

UCD Students’ Union Gender Equality Co-ordinator Ciara Johnson, has announced that a new campaign targeting sexual assault will launch in the first week of semester two. The campaign, called “Don’t Be That Person”, follows the similar “Don’t Be That Guy” initiatives in North America and in Trinity College Dublin, in focusing on the issue of consent in sexual encounters and shifting the focus from the victim to the potential offender.

Johnson says the name was chosen to avoid further stigmatisation of male rape and sexual assault, saying that the Union must “take into account that there is a growing number of men [who have been sexually assaulted], and it’s definitely something that has to be addressed.”

Posters and events on campus are to draw attention to the issue of consent and alcohol. In a press release issued in September, The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland was severely critical of attitudes surrounding rape where alcohol was involved, claiming that drunkenness was often used as an excuse for the rapist, or as a way to transfer blame to the victim. Johnson aims for the ‘Don’t Be That Person’ posters and events to impart the message that: “If they don’t say no, that doesn’t mean that they want to have sex,” and to urge potential offenders to “take responsibility.”

The campaign will kick off with a ‘Stay Safe Day’, with representatives from Amen (an organisation that provides support for male victims of sexual assault) and the Rape Crisis Centre giving talks. Johnson hopes that the event will help provide information and clarity.

“Sometimes people are confused, particularly with relationships, where consent isn’t given, whether they’ve done something wrong and whether that’s okay,” says Johnson. “Just to get the message out there that this does happen, and it’s okay to speak out about it and there are people here who can help you.”

The 2011 annual report from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre showed that over 15% of calls received that year were from persons aged between 17 and 23.  Almost 22% of those who used the organisation’s counselling service were in this age bracket.  Johnson believes that UCD is no different: “I know particularly from talking to our Welfare Officer that it is an existing problem within UCD. Whether it’s outside relationships or within relationships I think the idea of consent has become an issue.”

It was reported in January that sexual assaults in Vancouver had decreased by 10% following the introduction of a similar educational campaign. Bar and nightclub staff also received extra training and were told to be watchful around women who had had too much to drink. Johnson believes such methods could and should be applied in Dublin: “It’s a really good message. With the introduction of it in Trinity, I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. We have the opportunity to do something like that and I think we should take it.”