Ending sexual violence, supporting survivors and promoting consent

Worldwide, research has indicated that sexual harassment, sexual assault, non-consensual sexual experiences, bullying and racism are a feature of university campus life, as they are in wider society.

European/national context

In 2018, the European Union funded project, Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third Level Education (ESHTE project), brought together 15 higher education institutes from across Europe to tackle the issue sexual harassment and violence on campus. In Ireland, these institutions worked with the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), An Garda Síochána, sexual violence services, student bodies and Government departments on this initiative. The ESHTE project developed an 'It Stops Now' toolkit and campaign which was launched in March 2019 for use by higher education institutes – this project was completed in summer 2020.

On 5 April 2019, the Department of Education and Skills (DES) launched the Framework for Consent in HEIs (Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions). Institutions are required to report under the Framework in February 2021, and include a specific institutional action plan on tackling sexual violence and harassment. This initiative is being led by the National Women’s Council of Ireland, in association with the Higher Education Authority (HEA)’s Centre for Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

RCSI context

RCSI is working to end sexual violence, support survivors of sexual violence and promote consent (ESP). The following actions have been undertaken in the last three years:

ESP Forum

In 2018, an RCSI working group was established to develop a framework and policy aimed at ending sexual violence and misconduct. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) serves as an external advisor to this group. In the same year, RCSI students also established their own ongoing committee with a focus on sexual health – Sexual Education, Consent, Safety and Empowerment (SECSE). The committee organised a range of events and awareness raising campaigns and were instrumental in organising free condom dispensers in the bathrooms on campus.

In 2021 a dedicated staff and student ESP Forum will be launched.

RCSI is also a member of National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) National Advisory Committee aimed at ending sexual violence and harassment.

Framework and action plan

The RCSI Ending Sexual Violence and Promoting Consent Framework and Action Plan was launched in April 2018. This framework was subsequently updated and mapped to the Department of Education and Skills (DES) Framework for consent in HEIs which was published in 2019.

Support and report

RCSI has established 'support and report' pathways for students and staff. Full details are set out the policy documents and guidelines below.

Policy and guidelines

RCSI has developed dedicated policies and guidelines in this area including:

Sexual Misconduct Policy: Student Support and Report PDF | 869.6 KB

Training

  • Consent training for RCSI students: All new students were asked to complete an online training programme on consent. This programme was developed under the guidance of an expert panel of advisors, authors, student and staff reviewers, providing current, inclusive, and scalable training on sexual consent, communication and mutual respect in relationships, as well as exploring ways that students can support others and make a positive impact in their community.
  • Bystander intervention training: 12 RCSI staff members were trained to deliver the Bystander Intervention Programme, developed from the Intervention Initiative created at the University of the West of England, funded by Public Health England (Fenton, Mott, McCartan, & Rumney, 2014). The training aims to support 'others' to stand up to inappropriate attitudes and behaviors (to include sexually inappropriate spectrum as well as others such as racism).
  • Disclosure training for RCSI staff: RCSI Student Welfare Officers have completed intensive support training with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC). Three HR partners have also completed a day programme with the DRCC. In September 2019, all student-facing staff completed online 'receiving a disclosure' training. This training is part of the staff induction programme and will be re-issued on a three-year re-training cycle to all staff.

Awareness raising

In September 2019 the official launch of the Safe Sexual Health programme at RCSI (#RCSIGetsSECSE) coincided with the first mandatory online consent training delivered at RCSI.