Online tool allows college students and staff anonymously report sexual assault

Move aimed at creating 'zero tolerance' culture for harassment on campus

 Minister of Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the new platform will provide a safe and anonymous medium for students and staff to report incidents of bullying, assault or sexual violence Photograph: :Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

Minister of Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the new platform will provide a safe and anonymous medium for students and staff to report incidents of bullying, assault or sexual violence Photograph: :Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

 

Students and staff in third level colleges will be able to anonymously report incidents of bullying, assault or sexual violence using a new online platform.

The move is aimed at creating a “zero tolerance” culture for harassment and discrimination on college campuses.

Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Dublin City University and NUI Galway are among the colleges initially taking part in the project, though it will available across all higher education institutions during the current academic year.

An online anonymous reporting tool is already in operation in University College Dublin.

The Speak Out project was led by the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland and funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education.

The need for data to be collected on rates of sexual harassment and violence across the higher education sector was highlighted in a 2019 Government-commissioned report on sexual violence and reassessment.

Data collected through the new tool will be used to inform policy and targeted educational initiatives.

College-based counsellors will also provide users with support services relevant to their experience.

Zero-tolerance

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the new platform will provide a safe and anonymous medium for students and staff to report incidents of bullying, assault or sexual violence.

“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.”

Gertie Raftery, chairperson of Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland, said the service will provide a voice for students and staff in higher education to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment, violence or intimidation of any kind.

While a list of all available support services will be available prior to completing a report, the Speak Out system will use the answers given during the reporting process to provide a bespoke and tailored list of support services.

This will allow users to easily find the support services which are most relevant to them and seek support if they wish to do so.

Somhairle Brennan, Union of Students Ireland (USI) vice president for welfare , said the reporting tool will help to “de-stigmatise” conversations about consent.

“It will hopefully empower students who have had a non-consensual sexual experience to have their voice heard in a way that feels safe for them,” Brennan said.

“Having as much knowledge as possible is also vital and the data we will get from this tool will be incredibly useful in directing the supports we provide for students into the future.”

Dr Ross Woods of the HEA’s centre of excellence for equality, diversity and inclusion, said it means colleges will in future be better able to understand staff and student experiences of harassment and violence.

“Most importantly, it will raise awareness of the supports available to students and staff and encourage them to seek help if they need it,” he said.