The #ItStopsNow campaign launches in Ireland today, highlighting the systemic problem of sexual violence and harassment faced by third-level students and calling for collective action to ensure the safety, equality and full participation of every student.
31% of women students in Ireland have reported feeling harassed in their current educational institution, with one in four experiencing unwanted physical groping. Women from marginalised groups, such as women living with disabilities or women from migrant or ethnic minority communities, are most at risk. The ‘It Stops Now’ campaign and video highlight the critical need to raise awareness of sexual harassment and violence issues, and to eradicate the harmful behaviours which impede women’s equality, safety and active participation in the college experience.
In addition to the video, the campaign will also see posters, stickers and other material displayed in third level institutes across Ireland, with staff training, outreach and institutional resources to be unrolled in the coming months.
Campaign Coordinator Tara Brown said, “The ‘It Stops Now’ campaign emphasises that a broad cultural change is required to effectively tackle sexual violence and harassment. Students have the right to study and live in a safe and respectful environment. This campaign compels us all to consider and act on our shared responsibilities in building a culture of zero tolerance which prevents and combats sexual harassment and violence, both on and off campus”.
She continued, “The highest risk factor in experiencing sexual violence is simply being a woman. In Europe, women and girls represent 8 out of 10 victims of sexual assault. This is particularly prevalent amongst women aged 18 – 25. ‘It Stops Now’ builds on the momentum of movements like #MeToo by empowering students to lead change by ending victim-blaming attitudes, believing and supporting survivors, challenging toxic behaviours, and understanding and ensuring genuine consent”.
‘It Stops Now’ is informed by extensive research and student focus groups across four European countries. It showcases the experiences and perspectives of students on issues of sexual violence and gender inequality, ranging from incidents of rape, groping, stalking and catcalling to online harassment, secret filming, and the sharing of private or unsolicited, explicit images. Under-reporting of these issues remains a significant problem, with only 3% of students reporting incidents to their institute or An Garda Síochána.
Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, said, “The ‘It Stops Now’ campaign envisions a future where women students do not have to contend with sexual harassment and violence. Working with all stakeholders and participants in third-level life, the campaign promotes meaningful institutional and cultural change. This includes the development of policy frameworks which outline effective reporting and disclosure channels, offer positive support services, and provide ongoing training to ensure a long-term, progressive impact”.
The ‘It Stops Now’ campaign is an integral part of the Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third-Level Education (ESHTE) project which aims to prevent and combat sexual violence and harassment in third-level institutes across Europe.
The ESHTE project is funded by the European Commission, with the NWCI standing as its lead coordinator and working with the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS) in Cyprus, Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS), the Women’s Issues Information Centre (WIIC) in Lithuania and the Women’s Equality Commissioner, Ludwig -Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.
Each project partner is working closely with staff and students in higher education institutions, statutory agencies, and NGOs focused on combatting sexual violence and harassment against women. In Ireland, the NWCI facilitates a National Advisory Committee to support the development and implementation of the project.
The project is informed by research from across the EU which has reported the high prevalence of sexual harassment and violence experienced by young women in third level institutions.