On Thursday 25th October, UCD Students’ Union posted a video campaign on their Facebook page, in conjunction with the launch of the It Stops Now national campaign. This movement aims to “end sexual harassment in third level institutions.” Speaking to the University Observer, Tara Brown, Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third Level Education (ESHTE) Project Coordinator for the National Council of Women Ireland (NCWI), explained that the campaign “funded by the EU Commission, under the Daphne III funding, which is around the advancement of women’s rights…violence against women is intrinsically linked to inequality, and that’s what underpins violence against women.”
Prior to the release of the video, the NCWI prepared a review of the data surrounding sexual violence and harassment of women students in higher education in 2017 for the ESHTE Project. Meta-data from previous reports through the years found that in 2015, the “National Sexual Assault Trauma Unit Activity Report recorded that from 685 people who attended for rape or sexual assault: 92% of patients were women; 45% of patients identified themselves as students.” Despite the high number of reports received in 2015, according to Brown,“there is a huge issue of under-reporting on this issue for both women and men.”
The results showed that 93% of women said they felt specifically targeted with only 12% of men responding with the same answer.
Another, more recent, report was released last week on the results of the “safer city” survey. Brown reported that “about 75% of those that engaged with the survey… about 500 in Ireland, were under the age of 25.” The survey asked participants: “do you feel specifically targeted because of your gender?” The results showed that 93% of women said they felt specifically targeted with only 12% of men responding with the same answer. “Anyone can experience sexual harassment and sexual violence, however statistics, both in Ireland, in Europe and across the world showed that survivors of sexual assault are women.”
In the lead up to the It Stops Now campaign, the NWCI brought together members of their national advisory committee consisting of “government departments, the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochana, specialist NGOs, staff representatives from nine universities in Ireland and also student representative, in addition to the student health services” to take a collaborative approach that “put student experiences at the centre.” Together, when the group were developing the campaign, they carried out “focus groups with staff and students from institutes around the country, and got feedback about what they felt about the issue, what experiences they had and what they felt could be done.” Brown said that they also “brought students from around the country together for a campaign development session,” which was a large portion of the work behind the video and subsequent poster campaign.
“With this in mind, the second key message of the current campaign is attempting to educate students “when they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable to find a way to intervene, and that might not always be directly”
The campaign relays three key messages to third level students: to believe and support survivors, to speak up, not stand by, and to recognise consent. Working on bystander intervention Brown mentions the work of Louise Crowley from UCC, “she’s been running bystander intervention programmes for the last 2 academic years. Her main findings said that when they asked the students in their first module ‘do you think other people would intervene if they saw someone, say misogynistic comments or chatting up someone who is really drunk?’… when they got their data back in module five, they found that everyone thinks it’s important to do it. It’s just taking that first step is difficult and knowing what to do and how to go about it, and how to intervene in a situation.” With this in mind, the second key message of the current campaign is attempting to educate students “when they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable to find a way to intervene, and that might not always be directly, it might be calling someone, it might be checking on someone, there are many ways that you can do it without confrontation.”
The third key message is “bringing in consent to other areas besides what traditionally people thought of just physical sexual contact. What we’re finding is there is an increase in inappropriate imagery being shared online, so we’re really asking people in all spheres to think about what, whether it’s online or in person, to see if that other person is consenting and is okay with it.” On the work that UCD has done with consent, Brown commends the work of the Students’ Union and the “brilliant campaigns about what consent is and obviously the consent workshops are happening.”
The campaign is working with several Government officials, namely Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who has highlighted the work of the It Stops Now campaign at the European Gender Equality conference that was hosted in Trinity College Dublin. Others involved in recent consent workshops organised earlier in October were members of An Garda Síochana, UCC Law Lecturer Dr Louise Crowley, Senior NUIG Psychology Lecturer Dr Pádraig MacNeela, USI Vice President for Welfare Damien McClean and members of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
Building on the work of the #MeToo movement, It Stops Now is geared towards what happens next. “what is our responsibility as a society to make a change? Basically, we want to change the culture and support survivors and everyone realises they have a role to play”, Brown says.
To date, the work of the campaign has found that “the most at risk group is women between 18-29.” Within the student groups this campaign is trying to engage with, Brown wishes to focus “on the impact that sexual violence has on the prevalence amongst ethnic minorities, migrant communities, LGBTQ communities. In Ireland, the second largest indicator of being a survivor of sexual assault is living with a disability. We want to take an intersectional approach to how all that operates.”