UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald has issued a statement on the issue of sexual assault in higher education institutions
SIX dedicated emergency call point pillars have been installed in the University of Limerick campus in order to further enhance the security of students and reduce the risk of sexual assault.
The news comes as the president of the university, Dr Des Fitzgerald, addressed the issue of sexual assaults on the campuses of higher education institutions in Ireland saying there “can be no mistaking the fact that they are grossly underreported”.
“As illustrated by the Sexual Experiences Survey 2020 launched this week – we know that the number of official complaints of sexual assault made every year in no way reflects the reality or the frequency of sexual assault or harassment that students may have encountered either at UL or on any other HEI campus,” said Mr Fitzgerald in a statement issued this Wednesday.
“Over the past number of years at University of Limerick there has been a focus, not only on continuing to provide a safe environment for all our students and staff, but also on putting supports in place to encourage victims of any kind of discriminatory or abusive behaviour (including sexual assault or harassment) to make an official report.”
Mr Fitzgerald said it has meant that “we have had a small increase in reported cases but the number still does not reflect the reality and we will continue to do more to support our students in reporting any instance of any kind of discriminatory or abusive behaviour (including sexual assault or harassment).
“This can be a very sensitive issue for victims and we have many support structures in place for any student who is seeking assistance, from our UL Student Life Officers to our Chaplaincy Office, our Counselling and Health services, course leaders and peers.”
Mr Fitzgerald said that in order to further enhance the security of students and staff, “we have installed six dedicated emergency call point pillars at locations around the campus.
“They come with built-in strobe lights and in the event of the call button being pushed, the caller will be immediately connected with a member of the Campus Security Control Room.
“Emergency Beacons are a familiar sight on campuses across the world and have been found to promote a feeling of security and safety among university communities,” he said.
As most victims of sexual assault or harassment do not wish to make official complaints it is difficult to get a full picture of the size of the problem on any Irish higher education campus. “This is something we must and will change at UL and indeed should be encouraged at all universities,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
The Sexual Health and Wellbeing (SHW) Group was established as part of the Healthy UL Framework launched in 2019 and is currently developing a UL Sexual Health and Wellbeing Policy, including a protocol for crisis situations. This policy will be in line with the recently published National Consent Framework for Higher Education.
UL provides voluntary Smart Consent workshops/training for every incoming student - in the coming semester these will take the form of Virtual Consent Workshops, developed by NUIG’s Active Consent Group to as many first year students as possible during Orientation Week.
UL will have Report and Support in place in the autumn as part of a consortium to provide students with the means to anonymously report sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and all other forms of unacceptable behaviour including racism, homophobia etc. The hope is that the data provided from the reporting system will provide a broader picture of sexual violence on college campuses.