Feb 11 2020 Posted: 16:00 GMT

USI runs a Sexual Health Health Awareness campaign and launches a survey on campuses across Ireland

Today the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched a Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (SHAG) campaign running from the 10th -14th February. The campaign will include the launch of a ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ with NUI Galway Active Consent, the distribution of 30,000 ‘SHAG Packs’, as well providing information on sexual health. The theme for this year is Sexual Empowerment amongst students.

USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick says: “The main focus of this campaign is to promote positive attitudes towards sex and raise awareness of all aspects of sexual health. In Ireland, talking about sex can still be considered a taboo subject and USI believes it is important to break through these barriers and encourage people to practice safer sex and to look after their sexual health.

The truth is that many young people do not receive adequate relationships and sexual education while in school and for many the first time they learn about their sexual health is when they come to college. The USI continues to lobby for a more inclusive and evidence-based RSE programme for primary and secondary schools to ensure young people have experience of these conversations before going to college.

This campaign allows us to directly reach 30,000 students with information about masturbation, consent, abortion information and sexual transmitted infections.”

As part of the SHAG 2020 campaign, USI and NUI Galway Active Consent are working together in launching a national online students’ survey for third level students; the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES). The survey is designed to gain an insight on students’ experiences of sexual violence, attitudes towards consent, and perceptions of HEI supportsand responses to sexual misconduct.

The Sexual Experiences Survey will help to address the knowledge gap by surveying students across all HEIs in the Republic of Ireland affiliated with USI. Survey findings will be presented in a report later in 2020 that highlights priorities across the HEI sector for prevention, awareness, and skills development.

Dr Lorraine Burke, NUI Galway Post-Doctoral Researcher, leading the survey implementation said: “The 2019 Department of Education Consent Framework identified goals for HEIs in supporting students’ positive sexual health and to contend with the problem of sexual harassment and violence. The Sexual Experiences Survey will make sure we get comprehensive, up to date information on our students’ awareness of services, the prevalence of negative experiences, and the positive role of students in supporting a culture of respect”.

Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Senior Lecturer in Psychology in NUI Galway and Active Consent programme leader said: “The issue of sexual violence and harassment will only be addressed successfully when all of us join forces and act together. We are delighted to partner with USI to carry out this important survey. Each of us brings important strengths, and through collaboration with third level colleges we aim to get a full picture of positive and negative student experiences. Once we know that information we can use it to help target sexual health education and supports”.

USI Vice President for Welfare, Róisín O’Donovan says: “USI is delighted to be launching this survey in collaboration with NUI Galway Active consent on this important topic for students. The last time USI did a national survey on consent was the ‘Say Something’ survey in 2013, so it’s time for more up to date data to be reflective of the student society at the moment in Ireland. We’re looking forward to gaining a better insight into students’ sexual experiences and how we can best move forward with the ‘Consent Framework’”.

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