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NUI Galway Active* Consent is a research programme designed to carry out a series of projects over a four-year period from 2019-2022. The programme is intended to benefit our society by providing information on important topics like consent, sexual violence, and harassment, and by designing practical educational initiatives that help to address these topics.
Active* Consent resources and recommendations are supported by a rigorous Irish evidence base that we constantly update and expand. The key approval body for Active* Consent research is the NUI Galway Research Ethics Committee, which you can read about here: https://www.nuigalway.ie/researchcommunityportal/research-ethics/rec/.
Our approach to community-engaged research began in 2013 with one of the first studies of college students’ views on consent in Ireland. This developed further into practical ‘Smart Consent’ workshops from 2015 and into Active* Consent workshops and drama productions from 2019. Since we began, over 30,000 college students have taken part in the consent workshops that we have designed.
We carry out research to understand the needs of the groups served by our programme, including young people and parents, schools, colleges, and sports organisations. Finding out first how young people think and feel about sexual consent, and what gaps exist in their knowledge, gives us the best possible framework for designing educational initiatives.
All of the practical resources that we create, such as the Active* Consent workshops, The Kinds of Sex You Might Have in College drama, the eLearning resource on consent, and our staff awareness-raising and education resources, are supported by evaluation and feedback from our target groups. This means that the theories and goals we had in mind are translated into effective, meaningful engagement.
The research-action-evaluation cycle employed in the Active* Consent programme is our strategy for meeting the research goals of supporting young people to achieve knowledge and attitudinal change in their perceptions of sexual consent, and to empower them to communicate actively about consent – with their peers and in their own intimate relationships.
You can download our reports below to learn more about the research that we carry out. Two highlights of the research that we have completed so far are the college-based report Sexual Experiences Survey (2020), carried out with the Union of Students in Ireland, and the school-based report Active* Consent for School Communities (2021).
This is the first time a ‘campus climate’ methodology has been used in Ireland. SES (2020) was based on the ARC3 survey resource designed by leading U.S. researchers. That resource comprises a set of gold standard measurement tools on topics such as awareness of college supports, consent, bystander attitudes, and sexual violence and harassment. The ARC3 survey was adapted for third level students in Ireland after consultation with students, experts, Students’ Unions, and USI officers.
6,026 students completed the survey after 14 USI-affiliated higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland emailed SES invitations to all students on our behalf. The SES (2020) report will tell you what percentage of these students experienced specific non-consensual behaviours and particular perpetrator tactics since starting college, as well as describing their understanding of college-based supports and attitudes to education and help seeking.
This report describes the development and piloting of the Active* Consent workshop for schools, which was piloted with 993 pupils from 10 schools across the country. The pupils were asked to take part in a pre-/post-workshop survey based on attitude and knowledge measures that we have pioneered with college students.
In this report you will learn about the other parts of the school communities programme that we will release throughout 2020-21, including a filmed drama and sexual media eLearning package for schools alongside awareness-raising for parents and training for teachers.
The school communities report also describes a separate survey of 613 pupils from different parts of the country, which is the first in-depth exploration of consent communication among school pupils in Ireland. The pupils responded to a short ratings-based attitude items before writing responses to ‘consent stories’ that explored how communication is understood in practical situations.
Active* Consent for School Communities. Overview of the schools programme and research findings
Our research is supported by the Higher Education Authority and Lifes2Good foundation, NUI Galway & Rethink Ireland.