New online learning hub on sexual consent for third level education announced by Ministers Naughton and Harris

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

HILDEGARDE Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, and Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, have today announced that a new online learning hub on consent for the third level sector will be available for the new academic year.

The hub, being developed by Minister Naughton and Minister Harris’s departments in partnership with the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway), will improve the understanding of the meaning and importance of consent.

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It will contain material for students and staff in higher level institutions.

At the heart of this partnership will be a dedicated website with comprehensive resources which have already been developed by NUI Galway’s Active Consent research team, as well newly-designed resources specifically created for this project.

The new content will include:

  • eLearning resources on consent
  • Video series
  • Training resources for advocates and young people

The hub will provide an integrated, publicly-available resource on sexual consent awareness and consent learning resources.

These resources will not only support the work already being undertaken in higher education, but importantly will have direct relevance to a much wider audience.

For higher education students, the programme available through the hub will have three levels:

  • An online/live consent workshop
  • An eLearning resource on consent, sexual violence and harassment
  • Ongoing social media engagement into topics such as disclosure

For higher education staff, there will also be three tiers of engagement available on the hub:

  • Awareness on key issues
  • Education for decision makers and leaders on the promotion of consent
  • Training for those involved in culture change, awareness-raising, or disclosures.

The third level initiative and co-operation between the Department of Justice and the Department of Further and Higher Education is a key action in ‘Supporting a Victim’s Journey: A plan for vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases’, which was launched by Minister Helen McEntee last year.

It will also contribute to national campaign on consent to be launched by the Department of Justice later this year. This is also a key action from ‘Supporting a Victim’s Journey’.

Minister Naughton, speaking at the launch in NUIG, said:  “There can be no place for any forms of sexual violence and harassment in our society, and there can be no room for doubt or ambiguity on the meaning and importance of consent.

“We must improve people’s understanding of what consent is, and what healthy consent looks like. This initiative will be an excellent resource for the third level sector and beyond.

It is an important commitment in Supporting a Victim’s Journey, the Department of Justice roadmap to improve the justice system for victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases, and will contribute to our national campaign on consent later this year.”

The Department of Justice will fund the Active Consent research team at NUI Galway to create the online learning hub, and is partnering with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on this important initiative.

Launching the initiative, Minister Harris said, “No part of our society is untouched by sexual violence and harassment. People need to be safe, empowered, confident, and capable in their relationships and Ireland can take a leading role in confronting sexual violence and harassment.

“The work being done in our higher education sector on Consent can be a positive educator for other areas, and this online learning hub will provide an important resource not only for our higher education institutions, but also for a wider community”.

The hub will go live during the coming academic year, with further elements rolled out in 2022.

NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said, “NUI Galway is delighted to partner with the Department of Justice and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on this excellent initiative.  At the heart of NUI Galway’s values are respect and openness.  By championing respect and openness through initiatives such as the Consent Information Hub, we can have a profound and sustainable transformative impact on society. We look forward to supporting this initiative and all who participate.”

Dr Padraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said, “The online learning hub is based around the idea of ‘consent literacy’ for all members of our society. This means that people feel confident in their knowledge and understanding of consent, their communication skills with partners, how to access supports themselves or help others to do so, and how we can safely challenge unacceptable aspects of our culture.

“We will work with our partners such as Galway Rape Crisis Centre and Rape Crisis Network Ireland to create the resources we need to have a culture of consent in our colleges, schools, and communities.”