On Monday, October 2nd, the Higher Education Institutions, their Representative Bodies, IUA and THEA, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched the #UnmuteConsent Campaign 2023. The aim of this campaign is to “mobilise the student community to make a difference, by speaking out, by enhancing their own knowledge about consent, and ultimately, by challenging and changing behaviours”.
This campaign is taking place digitally on X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and Tiktok. The aim of this campaign is to “increase levels of knowledge and skills among students for accessing personal supports, and reporting procedures that engage all students in a non-threatening and empowering way.” The campaign has found some success on Tiktok, where the #unmuteconsent page has accumulated over 80,000 likes.
A range of measures around the issue of sexual harassment and assault in HEIs are being implemented across Ireland under the National Consent Framework. Some of the measures being implemented include: the appointment of dedicated Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Managers on HEI campuses, the implementation of an anonymous report and support facility in all HEIs and the extensive roll out of Consent education and Bystander Intervention training programmes. This campaign is aiming to “supplement these initiatives and further encourage conversation about consent”.
The four official areas where the campaign is seeking to encourage students are in speaking out or reporting unacceptable behaviour and accessing support, being active and challenging perceived norms of unacceptable behaviour, talking about consent and relationships in a positive and confident way and practising consent in their relationships and interactions.
The launching of this campaign comes just days after the the Central Statistics Office released their Sexual Violence Survey 2022. This survey, which is released once every 10 years, revealed a number of statistics about the levels of sexual harassment and assault in Ireland currently. Among other things the survey revealed that half of all 18-24 year olds asked said that they had experienced sexual harassment within the last year. This age demographic encapsulates the majority of students attending higher education institutions.
In response to the findings of the Sexual Violence Survey, the Vice-President of the USI for Welfare, Colette Murphy, and Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, called for increased education for young people on the topic of sexual harassment.