Nearly three quarters of female students face “sexual hostility” at college

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70% of female students and over half of men experience some kind of sexual hostility by the time they finish their third level education according to new research from NUI Galway

NUIG’s SMART Consent research team have been conducting studies on consent in students experiences of sexual harassment on campus since 2014.

Using a survey on students sexual experiences they found that 54% of 1st Year female students experienced some form of sexual hostility or gender harassment, rising to 64% in 2nd Year, and 70% of students third year or beyond.

The study also found that more than a third of male students experienced sexual hostility or gender harassment in 1st Year, which increases to 48% in 2nd Year and 54% in third year or beyond.

632 undergraduate students at NUIG, 206 men and 426 women, took part in the survey which covered 19 items in five different categories of sexual harassment.

The results of this study are being published this week by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor which she says show major gaps in how young people are prepared to make decisions about their sex lives.

“This research demonstrates that formal school experiences do not currently prepare most young people well
for managing the sexual decision-making scenarios likely to arise during their time at college.”

“The issue of sexual consent has emerged as a focal point that crystallises our concerns in this area. Consent
covers both the positive and negative components of sexual health. Consent is achieved when two people freely,
willingly and clearly give their continuous agreement to engage in sexual intimacy. ”

This year, PhD students Kate Dawson, Saoirse NicGabhainn, and Pádraig MacNeela also surveyed 2,150 students on how satisfied they were with their sex education.

The vast majority of respondents, 71% of women and 63% of men, said that their sex education at secondary school wasn’t satisfactory, with those number going even higher for students who identified as LGBT+.

Sexual Consent

Beginning in 2015, the SMART team have been running sexual consent workshops at NUIG, Queen’s University Belfast, DCU, and the National College of Art & Design.

They focus on training facilitators at each institution who can then teach students about obtaining sexual consent and developing the tools needed to make confident decisions about their sex lives.

Since piloting the programme over 2,000 students have taken part in their workshops.