Fianna Fáil Seanad Group Leader, Senator Catherine Ardagh has warned that unless substantial effort is made to eliminate the contributing factors in sexual offences carried out against women on college campuses, the number of women left suffering in silence will continue to rise.

In the past four weeks, three young female students have reported experiences of rape to the Cork Sexual Violence Centre but chose not pursue the criminal offence with Gardaí. Two of these three victims have dropped out of their respective courses and have returned home as a result of the trauma caused.

Since February, up to 50 students have reported incidents of rape and sexual assault in Galway.

Senator Ardagh raised the matter in Seanad Éirean earlier today.

“The nature of the environment in university can enable everyday sexism to thrive. New found freedom, a jam-packed social life and meeting new people would put any new student on a high. The threshold for consent is wrongly presumed to be even lower when there is alcohol also in the mix,” she said.

“It’s clear that the education of too many female students has been negatively affected by unwanted sexual advances or groping.

“The past 12 months have been a catalyst for examining how to eliminate the contributing factors in sexual offences against women on college campuses. It might sound assuring for a university to say it has a zero tolerance approach in place but it’s only constructive if it’s substantiated.

“A growing number of Universities and Colleges worldwide are introducing extensive training on consent and sexual attitude workshops; some have even gone so far as to make them compulsory. These certainly have a purpose in our third level institutions too.

“Sadly, victims can often decide not to make a complaint to the Gardaí because we have failed to give them the tools to be able to. Some women might not even be aware of how to go about reporting a sexual crime, how to preserve crucial evidence or be in the frame of mind to recount distressing details.

“I very much echo the calls of support groups nationwide to allocate greater resources to each of the Garda Protective Services Unit’s in Cabra, Clondalkin, Anglesea St and Dundalk.

“In the case of assaults in college, no young student should feel any pressure to choose between seeking justice for the perpetrator and obtaining their education – they should be fully supported to do both,” she concluded.