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UCDSU are set to launch ‘Not Asking For It’, a campus wide campaign this week to promote the conversation about sexual consent. It will be introduced at a reception this Thursday, 8th October, where celebrated author Louise O’Neill will speak to launch the campaign. Representatives from the Rape Crisis Centre and the National Women’s Council of Ireland will also be in attendance.

The campaign will run over the course of the academic year. It focuses on three main elements: a poster campaign, a selection of focus groups and a survey on sexual assault.  In an official statement released by the Students’ Union, they explained the importance of starting this conversation: “We’re looking to promote a definition of consent as elementally clear, active, adult and unmistakable.”

The posters will showcase anonymous stories “where consent was assumed rather than asked.”  The idea is that this should prompt people to ask the question of what constitutes consent and what qualifies rape.

The focus groups and the survey will contribute to a new sexual assault policy that the Union hopes UCD will adopt. The groups are based on similar formats used in other Universities and direct the conversation to consent. Hazel Beattie, the Postgraduate Officer, says the University has been receptive to their proposals. She notes that “things are beginning to change and I think they are open to change and open to working with us.”

The title of the campaign comes from the book Not Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, about the experience of a girl in a small Irish village who deals with damaging societal perceptions after being sexually assaulted. The book is the second by O’Neill looking at the pressures put on young women. Her debut Only Ever Yours was set in a dystopian world where a young woman’s worth is based solely on how attractive she is considered.

As a part of UCDSU’s campaign, all members of the union will be trained in how to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault and how to help victims. Beattie says “It’s good to have everyone…know what supports are out there.”

This consent campaign follows on from the work last year’s Welfare and Equality Officer Maeve DeSay began in initiating Sex Out Loud week.  This replaced Sexual Health and Guidance (SHAG) week last year and focused on consent.

Louise O’Neill is interviewed in our arts and culture supplement, OTwo.