By Imasha Costa
On Friday the 3rd of September, UCC’s Bystander Intervention Programme launched its national campaign as training initiatives for staff and students across Irish Higher Education Universities. UCC’s Bystander intervention aims to raise awareness of not only the importance of safe and effective interventions, but also encourage staff and students to become active bystanders and develop the skills and awareness to address sexual violence harassments across third level institutions. This event was launched by Professor John O’Halloran, President of UCC. The speakers featured in this event, that took place via Microsoft Teams, were Prof Louise Crowley, Claire Austick, President of the Union of Students Ireland (USI), Dr Ross Woods, Senior Manager for the Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in the HEA, Margo Noonan from Cork SATU and Asha Woodhouse, President of the UCC SU.
Alongside the launch of the campaign, UCC Bystander released a 15 minute starter video that includes key concepts on how to become an active bystander. This video introduces students to practice becoming a pro-social bystander and also identify and challenge perceived norms of unacceptable behaviour. This video features Prof Louise Crowley, the director of UCC Bystander intervention, as well as students and alumni (student ambassadors) that have undergone the Bystander programme and therefore share their experience and knowledge of becoming an active bystander. A key concept within the 15 minute video identifies that to be a pro-social bystander, consent has to be practiced at all times.
Also highlighted in the 15 minute starter video is The Sexual Experiences Survey that was conducted in 2020 by NUIG and USI that uncovered damaging and dangerous statistics. This is the first national survey that addressed university students’ sexual experiences in eight years. According to the USI website it is an ‘inclusive “campus climate” survey that assesses experience of consent education and help seeking education, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability, providing an unprecedently applied and intersectional view of sexual violence and harassment in the Irish college experience. The outcome of this survey demonstrated that 29 per cent of females, 10 per cent of males, and 28 per cent of non-binary students reported non-consensual sexual experiences. Just over half of first-year students reported experiencing sexual harassment in the form of sexual hostility since the beginning of college. This number rose for second-year students to 62 per cent and 66 per cent for third-year students in their undergraduate degree. The USI website also reports that sexual hostility was the most reported form of harassment experienced by all student groups, ranging from 46 per cent for Asian students and 70 per cent for Irish students.
The full Bystander training programme continues to be available to all Higher Education Institutions and is accessible via their own institutions Virtual Learning environment. It has also transitioned onto UCC Canvas Catalogue site which allows other institutions to enroll their students as external users.
Bystander has also launched a pilot programme with a modified version of the Bystander Intervention programme for second level, with its first launch at the Cork Life Centre which is a voluntary organisation that offers an alternative learning environment to young people that find themselves outside the mainstream education system.
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