University of Limerick President challenges results of sex assaults survey

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UL President, Dr Des Fitzgerald Picture Sean Curtin True Media

THE NUMBER of sexual assaults on students at the University of Limerick and other third-level institutions are being grossly under-reported, according to a recent survey.

Outgoing president of UL, Dr Des Fitzgerald, has said that the Sexual Experiences Survey, carried out  by the Union of Students in Galway, “in no way reflects the reality or the frequency of sexual assault or harassment that students may have encountered either at UL or on any other higher education campus.”

Almost one in three women reported non-consensual sex as a result of force, incapacitation or threat of force.

One in ten men and more than a quarter of non-binary students had the same experience, according to the survey carried out by NUI Galway’s Active Consent Programme, in collaboration with the Union of Students in Ireland, between February and April.

Dr Fitzgerald said that measures taken by UL to safeguard staff and students have resulted in  “a small increase in reported cases of sexual assault or harassment but the number still does not reflect the reality.

“We will continue to do more to support our students in reporting any instance of any kind of discriminatory or abusive behaviour, including sexual assault or harassment.”

“We have many support structures in place for any student who is seeking assistance, from our UL Student Life officers to our Chaplaincy Office, our counselling and health services, course leaders and peers.”

The Sexual Health and Wellbeing (SHW) Group was established last year as part of the Healthy UL Framework and is currently developing a UL Sexual Health and Wellbeing Policy, including a protocol for crisis situations.

The college has also installed six dedicated emergency call point pillars at locations around the campus.

They come with built-in strobe lights and, in the event of the call button being pushed, the caller will be immediately connected with a member of the campus security control room.

UL provides voluntary smart consent training for every incoming student. In the coming semester, these will take the form of virtual consent workshops.

UL will have ‘report and support’ initiative in place in the autumn as part of a consortium to provide students with the means to anonymously report sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and all other forms of unacceptable behaviour including racism and homophobia.