Bystander intervention workshops introduced to help combat sexual harassment

Posted 26 February, 2020

Some 5,500 incoming first year students at University College Dublin will be taught how bystanders can intervene to prevent sexual harassment.

A new 90-minute anti-harassment class will be mandatory for all new students attending the university in September.

The bystander intervention course, which focuses on how to help when someone is at risk, will be part of the orientation programme for first year students.

The programme aims to educate individuals about consent, as well as encourage people to be more open to calling out sexual misconduct.

“[We want to] equip students with the confidence to intervene in small ways in the event they do see something or experience it themselves,” said Dr Aideen Quilty, UCD’s Director of gender studies and academic lead on the bystander programme.

“It’s a really important message for incoming students and it’s about increasing knowledge and awareness as well as prevention,” she told the Irish Times.

The bystander programme, which will involve talks, workshops and a short film, received an “overwhelmingly positive” response when it was piloted on 200 students previously, Dr Quilty said.

Part of the workshop involves thinking up scenarios that might happen on a night out when a person is in a vulnerable situation and how best to help them.

Alongside the bystander class, a new website for anonymously reporting abuse has been made available to all UCD students.

The site, called Report + Support, allows individuals to report bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, and features prominent links to make official complaints to the college or the Gardaí.

The new intervention programme was modelled on a similar initiative at University College Cork led by Dr Louise Crowley.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations