A NEW online platform enabling higher education students and staff to anonymously report sexual harassment, violence or intimidation of any kind is to be rolled out at UCC and MTU, along with 16 other higher education institutions across the country.
The initiative, entitled Speak Out, was officially launched this week by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris.
The project will be rolled out at MTU along with 13 other institutions this week and launched at UCC and the remaining institutions later in the academic year.
Minister Harris described the initiative as “incredibly important”.
“The creation of this innovative and supportive online platform will provide a safe and anonymous medium for students and staff to report incidents of bullying, assault or sexual violence in a trauma-informed environment.
“These are issues that my department is acutely aware of, and I’m delighted we could provide funding for this vital project,” he said.
“Speak Out represents a national approach to tackling these issues by raising awareness, and by providing a means of recording instances, which will assist in achieving a zero-tolerance culture.”
The Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI) is leading the project, and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is funding it.
The HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion has also supported the project.
The 2019 'Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions: Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions' outlined the need for data to be collected on the incidence rates of sexual harassment and violence across our higher education sector.
The data collected through this tool will be used to inform policy and targeted educational initiatives.
"I am delighted to have led, on behalf of PCHEI, on the development of Speak Out which provides a voice for students and staff in Higher Education to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment, violence or intimidation of any kind,” Gertie Raftery, Chairperson of the PCHEI and Project Lead said.
“The tool will also provide bespoke signposting to trauma-informed supports."
USI Vice President for Welfare, Somhairle Brennan, said the launch of the Speak Out tool is “a welcome step forward in continuing to destigmatise conversations about consent”.
Speaking to The Echo, director of Cork’s Sexual Violence Centre, Mary Crilly said the tool is important to shine a light on the incidence rates of sexual harassment and violence across our higher education sector.
“I think it is to be welcomed because if nothing else it’s highlighting the fact that sexual assault and sexual harassment is happening in third level education,” she said.
“If someone does report anonymously they’ll need to know what’s going to happen after that, where it’s going to go.
“I do welcome it though. If it’s one thing it will do is it will create data on the situation,” she added.