Minister Harris launches national staff and student surveys on sexual violence and sexual harassment in Higher Education Institutions



By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 12 April, 2021

A ground-breaking survey into staff and student experiences of sexual violence and sexual harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions is being launched today (April 12) by Simon HarrisT.D., Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

 The survey, which will begin today and will be conducted by the Higher Education Authority, will be sent to every student and staff member by their Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). There are over 30,000 staff and 235,000 students in higher education.

It will ask students and staff to detail any experience of sexual harassment or sexual violence. This includes crimes of sexual violence, sexual cyberbullying of any kind including non-consensual taking and/or sharing of intimate images, creating, accessing, viewing, or distributing child sexual abuse material online or offline, stalking behaviours whether online or offline in a sexual context, and any verbal or physical harassment in a sexual context.

It will also ask staff their knowledge of policies, the availability of training and whether they feel safe in reporting allegations.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said:  “This will be the opening of a conversation with students and staff of our higher education institutions.

 “It is a conversation which may trigger difficulties for many people. Sexual harassment or sexual violence can be committed by a person of any gender. We know this can occur between people of the same or different genders, but we know the majority of victims are women.  It is often targeted and perpetrated to demean, diminish, and intimidate.

 “Sexual harassment or violence can happen between strangers or acquaintances, including people involved in an intimate or sexual relationship.

 “Our priority here is to have an open and honest conversation about sexual harassment and how our third level sector can become a leader in confronting these challenges.”

 At the request of the Minister, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) was asked to conduct these national surveys with a view to informing future national equality, diversity and inclusion planning.

In order to create a robust evidence base for further policy decisions in relation to tackling sexual violence and sexual harassment in higher education, the HEA has been working with stakeholders to develop standardised national surveys of staff and students to monitor their experiences.

 The surveys have been developed in consultation with an expert advisory group comprising a mix of experts and stakeholders from key groups, including the Irish Universities Association, the Technological Higher Education Association, the Union of Students in Ireland, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Rape Crisis Centre Forum and the national research funding agencies.

 HEA Chief Executive, Dr Alan Wall said: There is no longer a situation where reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment can be simply regarded as a bureaucratic issue or referred to external agencies. A cognitive shift is needed: one student sexually assaulted on campus or one early career researcher sexually harassed, is one too many. Staff and students need to be supported and the HEA, through this and other work in the area, is committed to ensuring a national higher education culture which is safe, respectful and supportive.

 Dr Ross Woods, of the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion stated: These surveys are an important step in quantifying the prevalence of sexual violence and sexual harassment across Irish campuses. However, we already know that a problem exists. Clear and transparent systems to review the effectiveness of institutional policies will be key to ensuring that we tackle this issue and that all staff and students in our campus communities have the confidence that we can do so.

 The survey will be open for a number of weeks and its findings will be presented to the Minister.

 In addition, Minister Harris will update Cabinet later this month on Action Plans requested by Higher Education Institutions.

 Anyone impacted by these issues should contact their Higher Education Institution or text 50808 for help. There is also a list of organisations, listed below, which may be able to help.

ENDS

 Notes to the Editor:

 BACKGROUND:

 On April 5, 2019, the then Department of Education and Skills launched the Framework for in Higher Educations Institutions (HEIs); Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions. This Framework aims to ensure the creation of an institutional campus culture which is safe, respectful and supportive.

In July 2020, Minister Harris met with the National Advisory Committee (NAC) for the implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs (Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions). Following this meeting, the Minister wrote to all publicly funded HEIs requesting that they develop institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment, and report to the HEA on their progress on the implementation of the Framework.

 The remit of the HEA Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality was expanded to cover all areas of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, as well as oversight of implementation of the Framework for Consent.

 Since then, the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion has been working with HEIs and the sectoral representative bodies to support implementation of the Framework for Consent. For instance, for academic year 2020/21, the HEA has supported the national, sectoral and local roll out of online consent training and online bystander intervention training, as well as the development of a national Anonymous Reporting Tool for issues of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment.

 As part of monitoring requirements, the HEA requires that institutions report progress on implementation of the Framework for Consent.

 SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE SURVEY:

In the survey, sexual misconduct is defined as any form of unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that may be subject to disciplinary proceedings. This includes crimes of sexual violence, sexual cyberbullying of any kind including non-consensual taking and/or sharing of intimate images, creating, accessing, viewing, or distributing child sexual abuse material online or offline, stalking behaviours whether online or offline in a sexual context, and any verbal or physical harassment in a sexual context.

For the purposes of the survey, sexual violence and sexual harassment collectively refer to physical contact or non-physical conduct of a sexual nature in the absence of clear, knowing and voluntary consent, including between people involved in an intimate or sexual relationship.

All staff working in HEIs in the Republic of Ireland, regardless of their personal experience of sexual violence and/or harassment are being asked to take part. The aim is to assess awareness among all staff of policies and supports to address sexual violence and harassment in Irish Higher Education and to survey staff for their views on, and/or experiences of these issues sexual violence and harassment in Irish Higher Education.

Supports available for anyone affected by the issues raised:

Service

Phone

Web

Text 50808

 

Free 24/7 Support in a Crisis – Text ‘HELLO’ to 50808

https://text50808.ie/

Samaritans

 

 

National Helpline – 116 123

 

https://www.samaritans.org/ireland/samaritans-ireland/

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 24-hour helpline – 1800 77 8888

https://www.drcc.ie/

 

Your local Rape Crisis Centre/Network https://www.rapecrisishelp.ie/find-a-service/

 

HSE

 

https://www2.hse.ie/services/sexual-assault-treatment-units/rape-sexual-assault-where-to-get-help.html

 

Sexual Assault Treatment Units

 

 

https://www2.hse.ie/sexual-assault-treatment-units/

 

Women’s Aid

 

 24-hour helpline – 1800 341 900

 

https://www.womensaid.ie/

 

Men’s Aid

National Confidential Helpline  – 01 554 3811

https://www.mensaid.ie/

Your local Gardaí

https://www.garda.ie/en/crime/sexual-crime/

HSE My Options

 

Freephone – 1800 828 010

https://www2.hse.ie/unplanned-pregnancy/

LGBT Ireland

 

National Helpline – 1890 929 539

https://lgbt.ie/

 

Take the Staff Survey

Take the Student Survey

More: Minister for Further and Higher Education, minister simon harris, sexual harassment, sexual violence, staff survey, student survey

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy page


Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.


Analytics cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone.