Hundreds attend consent workshop at NUI Galway

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Interest in sexual consent classes has skyrocketed this year as more than 400 attended a consent workshop at NUI Galway.

The Smart Consent programme and its workshops on sexual consent was created at NUI Galway in 2015 and has spread to universities around Ireland.

NUI Galway’s students’ union launched sexual consent workshops for first year students last month.

The first workshop at Corrib Village and Goldcrest student residencies attracted massive interest with over 400 students attending.

Consent has become a topic that people are more invested in discussing recently with several distressing stories coming out about the prevalence of sexual assault in colleges.

In August Smart Consent published its report stating that three quarters of female students in colleges experience sexual assault or harassment.

Galway Rape Crisis Centre recently revealed that nearly 50 students came to them over six months to report being raped or sexually assaulted.

The Irish Examiner reports that interest in consent education has skyrocketed this year, with some universities seeing engagement go up by more than 600% on last year.

At the University of Limerick, 70 people came to the students’ union’s sexual consent training classes in 2017.

But this year so far more than 500 people have come to consent classes delivered during tutorial periods.

In DCU the number of people coming to consent classes has doubled from last year, up to 563.

One facilitator at the DCU classes said that there has been a particularly high level of interest from young men.

Padraig MacNeela, one of the researchers at NUI Galway’s School of Psychology who created the Smart Consent programme said that he’s never seen this level of voluntary participation.

The Galway workshops involve over 40 volunteers trained by the Smart Consent programme to act as facilitators.

Overall Professor MacNeela and the rest of the Smart Consent team have trained more than 250 facilitators at colleges and universities around Ireland.

The workshops walk students through three different stories with a variety of interactions.

They cover scenarios including non-verbal consent – like whether a smile indicates consent – sexual harassment, and same sex relationships.

In August when Smart Consent published its report, Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said that sexual consent courses should be a mandatory part of third level education.