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Letter to Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD on Consent Education

Friday, 17 July 2020

Dear Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD,

I am contacting you in relation to your contribution in the Dáil yesterday (Thursday, 16th of July) where you advocated for the implementation of a reformed sex education curriculum. UCD Students’ Union has already written to Minister Foley on this issue and would like to thank you for arguing for the need for an ongoing education programme aimed at informing young people about consent, domestic abuse, coercive control, sexual violence and emotional wellbeing/mental health management.

This is an incredibly important issue, particularly in light of the results of the Union of Students’ in Ireland’s “Sexual Experiences Survey”. We were struck by the findings of the report that detailed an alarmingly high proportion of students who had experienced sexual assault and violence. The findings clearly demonstrate a deeply concerning societal issue, where a huge cohort of students have encountered a traumatic experience relating to sexual assault and rape. We welcome the provision in the programme for government to ‘develop inclusive and age-appropriate RSE and SPHE curricula across primary and post primary levels, including an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships and making appropriate legislative changes, if necessary’.

Students should not have their first experience of objective information around consent at a university level, but unfortunately this remains the case in many circumstances as a large variance remains in the sex education curricula across the country. Informing young people of their responsibilities towards their peers is essential, and students should know exactly what resources are available to them when they experience or observe unacceptable behaviour. Implementing a variation of the “Provision of Objective Sex Education” bill would be a clear and welcome action that the Government can take to further support and protect young people. We ask that you continue to push for these reforms to be made as a matter of urgency.

On a separate note, UCD Students’ Union is hoping to run a campaign about emotional abuse and coercive control, including a panel discussion, in the first trimester of the return to campus (either in person or as an online webinar depending on public health advice). We are aware of your advocacy in this area and would very much appreciate if you would be interested in being a panellist for a talk (which will be taking place in October/November).

I would be happy to meet with you to discuss how to work with you on the above issues and to see if there are any other student issues we could work together on.