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Bystander Intervention Week at UCC

By Orla Leahy, News Editor 

Bystander Intervention Week is set to take place at UCC from Monday, February 14th, to Friday, February 18th. The Bystander Team have stated that the week, “will highlight the issue of gender-based violence and sexual harassment both on and off university campuses.” The last Bystander Intervention Week on UCC’s campus saw the development of a mural on the side of the Boole Library, in 2019, seeking an end to both gender-based violence and sexual harassment. 

This year’s week will include a variety of events to raise awareness about gender-based violence and sexual harassment that occurs both on and off UCC’s campus. Professor Louise Crowley has stated that the week functions, 

“as a really good platform to raise the profile of not only the training in UCC, but the importance of the training in UCC, to highlight the really serious and prevalent issue of sexual harassment and violence, and to speak to all people of campus…so that they know they are seen…and that we recognise this is an issue for our students.”

One of the highlights of the week will be the exhibition in the Boole Library, which will include reflections by students and staff who have completed the Bystander Intervention Digital Badge. The Bystander Team have termed the exhibition as, “a stunning mix of poetry, prose, artwork, film and music, demonstrating the impact of the programme.” Visitors to the Boole during the week will have the opportunity to view the reflections at the exhibition space on the ground floor of the Boole Library. 

Other highlights include the Consent Tent, where a number of NGOs will be present, in front of the Student Centre, from 12pm to 2pm daily, to offer support and advice to students and staff. Alana Daly Mulligan from the Bystander Team, has stated that, “it doesn’t matter where you are on your journey to understanding Bystander Intervention, we will meet you there, and we want to bring you along the way.”

Themed focus sessions at 11am daily, “will work to explain and enhance create awareness around specific issues, where effective intervention from bystanders can make a significant difference.” Confirmed guest speakers include, Mary Hayes, who is the ‘Too Into You’ Project Lead at Women’s Aid, and will address intimate partner violence. Eve McDowell, Co-Founder of Stalking.ie will consider stalking awareness, and UCC’s own Professor Louise Crowley, Director of the Bystander Intervention Programme, will discuss the aims and impact of the Bystander Intervention Programme

Professor Crowley notes that the week has been composed, “in a manner that ensures that it is not just the Bystander Team that people can talk to…but we are bringing other support services, a range of them, onto campus…to provide that care, that trauma-informed support to those that may need it.” 

For students and staff that only have time to attend one event, their time would be best spent taking up the Bystander Training. The week itself functions to, “shine a spotlight on the training”, and the Bystander Team believes that the best possible outcome of the week would be that, “on Friday evening, at 5 o’clock, everyone had taken the training.” 

The essence of the Bystander Intervention Training, according to Professor Crowley, “is that we are responding, and that we have a responsibility to respond, as a community, so that we can demand absolute respect amongst us all, and that we can dictate the type of society that we want to live in.” 

Bystander Intervention Week comes at an appropriate time, in the midst of increased awareness of gender-based violence, following Ashling Murphy’s death, and the recent reports of the HEA on the National Surveys of Staff and Student Experiences of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. The Irish Universities’ Association has recognised these reports as, “an important step in building the evidence base in relation to sexual violence and harassment, to identify areas for improvement, and against which to assess the impact of targeted initiatives across the higher education system.” The Bystander Team have acknowledged that in light of recent times, there has been “great appetite” by the general public for accessing a form of education, and empowerment, akin to Bystander Intervention Training. 

Ultimately, the week will also showcase the university’s tireless efforts to implement every aspect of the “Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions: Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions.” From consent training to student counselling services, the efforts to implement the National Framework can consistently be seen across campus. The university will also be implementing a number of new services to support students and staff over the next number of months. 

Professor Louise Crowley, in advance of the week, has stated, 

“Whilst sexual harassment and violence is perpetrated by the minority, it is essential that everyone plays a role in establishing a shared rejection of all forms of abuse and collectively demand a new norm of dignity, respect and equality. We look forward to engaging with the UCC community and beyond during Bystander Intervention Week and to securing a safe, respectful experience for all.”

All information about Bystander Intervention Week, and a full schedule of events, including links to the online events, can be found on the Bystander website, bystanderintervention.ucc.ie, and social media @BystanderUCC. Bystander Intervention Training can also be accessed on the website here