Record number of male sign-ups to UCC programme which supports students in identifying sexual harassment and violence

UCC’s Bystander Intervention Programme supports students in identifying what sexual harassment and violence look like, from leering, cat calling and groping right up to rape and aggravated sexual assault.
Record number of male sign-ups to UCC programme which supports students in identifying sexual harassment and violence

Founder of the programme, Professor Louise Crowley said that there were 70 sign-ups on Monday alone, the largest number of sign-ups to the programme to date. Of the 70, 28 were men. Photo by Tomas Tyner, UCC.

Cork students are recognising that “every man can be involved in changing the conversation” surrounding sexual harassment and violence.

UCC’s Bystander Intervention Programme supports students in identifying what sexual harassment and violence look like, from leering, cat calling and groping right up to rape and aggravated sexual assault.

This week, in the wake of the killing of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy in Co Offaly, the programme welcomed the highest number of sign-ups to the programme in a single day, including the highest number of male sign-ups, since its inception in 2016. Founder of the programme, Professor Louise Crowley said that there were 70 sign-ups on Monday alone, the largest number of sign-ups to the programme to date. Of the 70, 28 were men.

Last Thursday, the day after Ashling was killed, there were 30 sign-ups, of which 25 were men, a number which Prof Crowley said is very significant.

“Very often it would be eight females for every two males, or even nine to one, so there has been a sizeable shift in the numbers of men signing up which is hugely encouraging.

“It gives me hope that men are now recognising their role that it’s not all men but that every man can be involved in changing the conversation and in challenging things that they hear,” Prof Crowley said.

“Women have been challenging for years but I think if the men can stand in solidarity with us and challenge their peers - and their peers, in my opinion, would be more likely to check their behaviour if they are being challenged because nobody wants to be the outlier, nobody wants to be the person in the company whose behaviour is being challenged or rejected.

“I think that is so powerful and we really need to capture that right now as we have momentum and [we need to] encourage people to reflect on what they can do to change what’s happening,” she said.

Bystander Intervention Programme

The Bystander Intervention Programme was an initiative Prof Crowley started developing in 2015 and was first rolled out to law students in 2016, then to law, nursing and midwifery students in 2017 before it transitioned to the online platform after being so well received by students.

The training supports students in identifying what sexual harassment and violence look like, and helps students to recognise the reluctance that most people feel to intervene as a bystander. It helps work through the reasons why people might be slow to intervene and how to overcome that.

It also looks to better understand the laws surrounding sexual harassment and violence and moves to cultivating a sense of personal responsibility as a bystander.

“We deliver the training deliberately as bystanders so that we’re speaking to everybody because everybody is a bystander to anything in life and rather than focusing on perpetrators or survivors of sexual harassment and violence, we wanted for everyone to be the relevant audience and everyone recognising themselves as a bystander,” Prof Crowley said.

The training then moves from education to empowerment where students learn about different forms of intervention and understand that intervention does not equate necessarily to confrontation.

She highlighted the importance of being able to recognise red flags, seeing where there may be danger and stepping in to support a potential victim.

The training also helps people to recognise that an intervention can be after something has happened such as receiving a disclosure from somebody if they have been a victim of sexual harassment or violence, listening to them, believing in them and sending them to the right supports.

Prof Crowley said that after completing the programme, there was a significant increase in the percentage of students who believed they have the capacity to make an intervention and that they have a role to play and can make a difference on campus.

For more information on the programme, visit www.ucc.ie/en/bystander/

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