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Online Anonymous Tool for Students and Staff to Report Violence and Sexual Harassment Launched

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, has launched ‘Speak Out’ – the anonymous tool to report violence and harassment in higher education institutions.

Speak Out is an online and anonymous reporting platform for incidents of:

  • bullying
  • cyberbullying
  • harassment
  • discrimination
  • hate crime
  • coercive behaviour or control
  • stalking
  • assault
  • sexual harassment
  • sexual assault
  • rape

Speaking today, Minister Harris said, “I am delighted today to launch this incredibly important initiative. The creation of this innovative and supportive online platform will provide a safe and anonymous medium for students and staff to report incidents of bullying, assault or sexual violence in a trauma-informed environment. These are issues that my Department is acutely aware of, and I’m delighted we could provide funding for this vital project. 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.

The project will be rolled out across 18 higher education institutions throughout this academic year for students, staff and visitors. The Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI) is leading the project, and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is funding it. The HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion has also supported the project.

The 2019 ‘Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions: Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions‘ outlined the need for data to be collected on the incidence rates of sexual harassment and violence across our higher education sector.

The data collected through this tool will be used to inform policy and targeted educational initiatives. It is the goal of PCHEI to provide a trauma-informed tool which will provide users with support services relevant to their experience.

This project is a ground-breaking initiative which is underpinned by an ethos of cross-institutional collaboration in response to such incidences within higher education institutions.

An online anonymous tool to report violence – ‘Report and Support’ – is already in operation in University College Dublin, and UCD staff and students can access it .

Gertie Raftery, Chairperson of the PCHEI and Project Lead said, “I am delighted to have led, on behalf of PCHEI, on the development of Speak Out which provides a voice for students and staff in Higher Education to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment, violence or intimidation of any kind. The Tool will also provide bespoke signposting to trauma-informed supports.

USI Vice President for Welfare, Somhairle Brennan, said, “we know from previous research, and what we regularly hear from students and student representatives, that further action is needed to continue to support students who experience sexual violence or harassment or other forms of aggression or bullying. The launch of the Speak Out tool is a welcome step forward in continuing to destigmatise 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. 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, Director of the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, added, “this tool will allow HEIs to understand staff and student experiences of harassment and violence, and will assist the HEA in making evidence-based policy decisions in this area. Most importantly, it will raise awareness of the supports available to students and staff and encourage them to seek help if they need it.

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