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New campaign aims to tackle sexual assault in schools and colleges

A new campaign aims to equip students and staff with “practical information” on how help tackle sexual assault in schools and colleges, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said Minister Simon Harris’ campaign will provide students and staff with practical information on how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “Young people in our third-level institutions have been, and continue to be, assaulted, raped and subjected to sexual violence.

“However, we still see worryingly low disclosure and reporting rates amongst students.

“We know that students can be particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and coercive control, and the impact of these crimes can be devastating.

“From speaking with the mother of Emily Drouet, the Scottish student who took her own life having been subjected to a campaign of abuse from her boyfriend, I’ve heard just how catastrophic this impact can be.

“Over the past number of years, we’ve broken down barriers in discussing sexual consent and violence.

“We now need to go beyond this to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

“In situations where crimes do occur, we need to provide people with information and tools so that they know how to respond.”

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said the campaign is a “pragmatic” initaitive.

It will be “focused on informing students and staff on how to respond if they learn of harassment or sexual violence,” she said.

Minister Harris has requested action plans from each third level college and university on how it intends to deal with the problem. The plans are due to be published shortly.

“I’m delighted to see that the campaign is being is being run by NUI Galway Active Consent, the Union of Students in Ireland and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre,” said Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

“These organisations have been fundamental in bringing the issue of sexual consent to national attention and continue to work tirelessly to tackle sexual violence at third level.

“These crimes are not problems unique to colleges or universities.

“We need root and branch reform and we need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment.

“While this campaign is a step in the right direction, a complete reform must begin with sexual education in our schools,” she said.

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