Parents ‘need to step up to the plate’ on sexual consent issue

Mary Mitchell O’Connor troubled by student survey results

Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Parents need to “step up to the plate” to ensure that students heading off to college for the first time are aware of the issue of sexual consent, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor has said.

Parents need to talk to the young people who could be embarking on their first sexual experience when they go to college.

"They need to get across the message that sex without consent is a crime, it is rape," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor said she was troubled by some of the details revealed in research published by NUI Galway on Tuesday.


The research of more than 3,500 students, which was conducted at NUI Galway via consent workshops at four colleges, revealed that some 70 per cent of female students and 40 per cent of male students said they experienced sexual hostility or crude gender harassment by the time they were finishing third-level education.

The same proportion of women (70 per cent) and more than 60 per cent of men surveyed also felt sex education at secondary school wasn’t satisfactory, while lesbian, gay and bisexual students found it to be even less relevant.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor pointed out that Minister for Education Richard Bruton has tasked the National Council for Curriculum Assessment to review RSE (religion and sex education) in primary and secondary schools. "They need to be updated, some of them have not been updated in 19 or 20 years", she added.

Age appropriate sex education was needed in both primary and secondary schools she said. The report was troubling reading said Ms Mitchell O’Connor and indicated that “we have a problem in our third level institutions.”

At present there is an ad hoc process of support, “I need to pull all that together. We need to join the dots so that what we roll out has a unified minimum standard.”

Raising awareness is really important, she added, through workshops in third level institutions. But it was also necessary for parents to “step up to the plate” and make young people aware of consent.