Editorial: We Need To Talk About Consent

Words: Ellen Desmond

Consent is a media buzzword. Yet, the reality of everyday, face-to-face conversation and culture is removed from this.

Ireland shrugs off inappropriate, harassing jokes. Our culture belittles the severity of sexual assault as “lad banter.” It silences the victims of rape; it makes it too difficult to get a conviction against the perpetrator. It demands that victims measure out just how certain they are that they were violated; to think about the impact on the rapist before they make an accusation.

It forces victims to consider how their family, their community and society will react to the “scandal.” It brushes it all under the mat as too messy to address and with it pushes blame upon the one person hurt most by it all.

Victim blaming is a cruel and unjust outlook to have. The culture surrounding it silences people. It wrongly condemns the victims to live with a hidden trauma, while leaving the perpetrators walk free.

But the real life conversation is beginning to gather momentum of late. There’s no ignoring it. Lady Gaga is singing about it. Louise O’Neill is writing about it. People everywhere are demanding a proper discussion takes place about consent and it’s reflected throughout the pages of this month’s issue.

Motley has decided to join the conversation because a girl was sexually assaulted in the Kane last August, just metres from our office. She spoke out, and was heard by officials. But this occurrence is unacceptable and not isolated.

Instead of heightening security measures there should now be a call for the heightening of education on consent in UCC. Those who commit sexual assault and rape should be forced to learn that they have no entitlement to another person’s body.

In response to this incident, instead of heightening security measures there should now be a call for the heightening of education on consent in UCC. Those who commit sexual assault and rape should be forced to learn that they have no entitlement to another person’s body. We should all feel safe here without having to work for our safety.

In a survey we conducted earlier in 2015, 68.84% of respondents believed UCC has a predominant lad culture, 68.31% were in favour of mandatory consent classes for all students, and 70.68% believe that there are not enough facilities and education regarding consent on campus. It’s not fair for the Students’ Union, the Feminist Society or the LGBT* Society to carry the burden of pressure and try to fill this space with advice on consent; mandatory classes and education need to come from the top ranks of the University.

I urge you to join the conversation on consent because of this and because of a separate incident, which this time took place outside of the University, in Cork City centre. An incredibly brave and selfless outgoing-student has written about this experience. This individual has spoken to no one about the trauma they went through, but has put their own feelings aside to try to increase understanding. I don’t know the identity of this anonymous writer but they have my utmost respect. However, it breaks my heart that they felt the need to be silent and I truly wish I had a way to reach out to them.

To this person (and to the many, many others with a similar experience) please know that there are more people who would like to help you than who would do you wrong. Thank you for sharing your words. We’ve heard you and we’re going to do our best to keep the conversation going.