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August Active* Consent for School Communities: Report on new sexual consent research and education resources published
Active* Consent for School Communities: Report on new sexual consent research and education resources published
Study among Irish school pupils aged 15-17 found:
- 93% of females and 79% of males agreed that consent is always required for sexual activity
- 98% agreed it is okay to say no
- 92% agreed there is a need to talk about sexual consent even in a relationship
A new Consent Communication Study among Irish teenagers by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent programme has found that 79% of males and 93% of females agree that consent is always required for sexual activity.
The results of the study will be launched today (Tuesday, 24 August) along with a report detailing a set of new consent education resources for Irish secondary schools.
The programme launch will include contributions from the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, Annette Honan from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and a number of young people.
The Active* Consent for School Communities report is based on original research with pupils, parents and teachers.
In particular, the report contains the first in-depth research analysis of consent communication among Irish teenagers from a survey of 613 post-primary students.
This research explores findings on attitudes to consent, perceptions of peers, and how young people responded to consent communication dilemmas.
This survey found:
- 93% of females and 79% of males agreed that consent is always required for sexual activity. (18% of males were neutral as to whether consent is always required; 3% disagreed that it is always required. 6% of females were neutral; 1% disagreed).
- 62% agreed that consent for this activity always needed to be verbal, and 60% said that non-verbal consent to sexual activity is sometimes OK.
- 51% agreed that their peers think consent is always required for sexual activity, while 37% agreed that their peers think consent should always be verbal.
- There was a significant gender gap in personal comfort with being sexually intimate with someone they had just met at a party, with females less likely to be comfortable than males. While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 51% of males said they were comfortable.
- There was also a significant gap among females between their personal levels of comfort with being intimate with someone they just met at a party, and how comfortable they thought other teenagers were with it. While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 42% of females agreed that other teenagers would be comfortable with this.
- 98% agreed it is okay to say “No, I don’t want to” if you don’t want to have sex.
- 92% agreed there is a need to talk about sexual consent even in a relationship. Nevertheless, being awkward, embarrassed, or being afraid of being judged or ruining the mood emerged as key barriers to consent communication.
- The survey participants responded to three “consent stories” that explored reactions to someone saying “no” to a partner, to whether a smile constitutes consent, and to how males are perceived if they turn down sex.
The report completes a two-year process of developing the Active* Consent programme for schools. This complements the work that Active* Consent carries out with colleges and sports organisations.
Based on the research carried out by Active* Consent, the schools programme launched today consists of an integrated package of resources, each of which can also be delivered on a stand-alone basis:
- A sexual consent workshop for young people aged 15-17 that can be provided in-class or online.
- Awareness-raising seminars for parents and guardians, along with education/training resources for teachers.
- Sex on Our Screens, an eLearning resource designed to increase young people’s critical literacy skills on sexual media, pornography, body image, and consent
- How I Learned About Consent, a new filmed theatrical drama that explores the nuances of consent, how we learn about consent, and the positive changes that take place when we practice active, positive consent.
The workshop, seminars and training are available from September, while the eLearning resource and theatrical film will be made available from October onwards. The schools programme can be integrated with existing sexual health initiatives and projects, and the resources are designed to be delivered by teachers or other professionals.
The consent workshop was piloted over the past year with 993 students in 10 schools nationally. Workshop survey responses showed significant increases in pupils agreeing that consent needs to be agreed before the start of any sexual activity and that consent should be verbal.
The percentage of pupils who agreed that they had the skills needed to deal with sexual consent went from 61% beforehand to 92% afterwards. Some 99% of females, 95% of males, and 100% of non-binary pupils agreed that the workshop was relevant to them, with 90% saying they would recommend the workshop to their peers.
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said: “The Active* Consent programme indicates that we are making progress in confronting what is not only a complicated issue, but an extremely important one for developing positive relationships and reducing sexual harassment. The programme will equip secondary school students with self-confidence to speak up if there is something happening that they are not comfortable with. In a perfect world we would like to think attitudes towards sexual harassment are changing but evidence shows us we have a long way to go.”
Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “The Active* Consent schools programme responds to calls from policy makers, researchers, and activists for freely available, research-based tools to support secondary school communities with positive, active consent. Our research tells us that young people, parents, and teachers are all looking for practical advice on open communication that is based on mutual respect. The range of resources we are now providing will help our school communities to address these needs.”
Dr Siobhán O’Higgins, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “Our resources aim to build consent competence, which means having the knowledge and skills that enable you to confidently communicate your own boundaries while respecting those of others. We have worked with schools across the country to pilot a new consent workshop that supports not alone teenagers, but also their parents and teachers. We worked with young people to design it, and now, based on piloting with 1,000 of their peers, the Active* Consent workshop is available to schools around the country.
“Teachers stated that they want resources to engage pupils in learning about the importance of consent. Parents want support as the primary educators of their children, but many feel they do not have enough information to confidently support their children in this area.”
Primary support for the Active* Consent programme comes from Lifes2good Foundation, a Galway-based philanthropic foundation with a primary focus on promoting the rights of women and children through preventative as well as remedial strategies. The programme is also supported by the Rethink Ireland Arts to Action funding scheme, which aims for artistic and cultural contributions to have a significant impact on enhancing Irish society.
Over the course of the year, the schools programme will be hosted on the new online learning hub that Active* Consent is providing as a national resource in partnership with the Department of Justice and the Department of Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science.
The Active* Consent schools programme will be launched online at 2pm Tuesday, 24 August. To register visit https://bit.ly/3z7Ihw6 or for more information on the Active* Consent programme visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/student-life/student-support/active-consent/.