The role of consent in preventing sexual assault and discrimination

When evaluating the liberations and empowerment of modern sexual mores, the issue of consent is one that is often ignored by the participants. Often consent is confused with empowerment on both genders.

This weeks, tens of thousands of students are sitting exams that will bring them out in the wider world. Many of them away rfom home for the first time. It is a bright new world, full of opportunities both positive and negative.

There is nothing better for the young adult that the liberation of their time. It is a period in their lives where they are probably naive in many respects but it is a naivete that will be honed into shape and will benefit them in the long term. However what is most frightening about this new generation is that they enter wider society without the basic understanding of the issue of consent in sexual relations.

Sex education in post primary schools skirts around the issue and in doing so, it leaves young people of both genders open to sexual exploitation. Ireland seems to be a developed country unique in its reluctance to tell young people about the issue of consent. It is an education that is as much for the perpetrators of sexual violence as it is for the victims.

More than a third of the perpetrators of sexual violence against children are often children themselves. By allowing our young children to go through the bulk of their education and not educate them about prepare behaviour and respect, we are doing them a disservice.In this light it is hoped that reports such as that presented by doctoral researcher Elaine Byrnes in NUI Galway yesterday will be acted upon.

It is shocking but not at all surprising to learn that one in four female students in our local university say they have experienced some form of sexual assault. In cities such as ours where students are encouraged to party liberal and freely, Ireland is creating a generation of young people whose attitude towards the consumption of alcohol and sexual consent is downright dangerous.

Half of males questioned and a third of all females questioned admitted to engaging in sexual conduct that they would be reluctant to do were they not under the influence of alcohol. Most of those questioned said that they use alcohol as a confidence-builder before engaging in sexual relations.

At the presentation of the findings that Dr Padraig McNeela acknowledged that we are not fully aware of the damage that this lack of clarity on consent and sell control has on wider society. If we fail to help students and children appreciate the value of consent, then we are undermining the barriers that prevent people from being blasé about sexual assault. We need to act now to make sure that we do not build a generation of people who grow up confused about sexual assault and gender-based harassment and violence.

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