Concerns have being expressed about the findings of a recent study into student experiences of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault. The ‘Say Something’ study was carried out by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in association with COSC (National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence) earlier this year.
The research findings were publically launched last week by the USI and revealed that as many as 1 in 10 Irish women and 1 in 20 Irish men had being the victim of obsessive behaviour that had made them afraid or concerned for their safety. The results also showed that only 3% of those who had experienced harassment reported it to the authorities afterwards and 16% of respondents experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience while at their current educational institution.
Commenting on the study’s findings, USI Vice President for Equality & Citizenship, Laura Harmon, expressed her surprise and concern for the low reporting rates amongst those who had experienced mistreatment or harassment.
“The low rates are more than likely down to the stigma attached to such incidents in Ireland today. The victim fears that he/she will be blamed or will face public embarrassment over the reporting of an incident and so many of these cases go unnoticed by the Gardaí. The victim is however never to blame.”
The study also showed a marked difference between the prevalence of these incidences for heterosexual students and those that are Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB). It found that 22% of LGB students had faced physical mistreatment during the year, this figure was only 14% for heterosexual students. Also 17% of LGB students were the victims of obsessive behaviour, while the figure for non-LGB students was 11%.
The study is the first of its kind and scale in Ireland with over 2,750 third-level students surveyed. When asked how the Irish study’s findings compare internationally Ms Harmon stated, “The study was based on a similar research model in Britain with the results being more or less similar with only a higher rate of reporting in Britain of incidents compared to Ireland.”
Harmon went on to say that she hopes the study “will help to open up dialogue around these issues among the student body. The findings will now inform a national campaign aimed at raising awareness of the issues and of the supports available to students. USI will also organise training for Students’ Unions and college support staff around the issue.”
The survey also found that students experienced issues with video and photos taken without their consent with some of these being circulated online as well as experiencing sexual commentary, which made them feel uncomfortable.