Irish colleges investigated only 15 out of 31 reported sexual assault and harassment cases in 2018/19

New data has found not all reports of sexual assault and harassment cases are investigated by third-level institutions

According to the less than half of sexual assault and harassment cases reported by students during 2018 and 2019 were investigated by colleges.

In the 2018/2019 academic year, 31 students reported cases but only 15 of these were investigated by the institutions. This information was collected in 2019 from 19 higher-level institutions where such information was available.

Data collected also shows the number of reported cases has been increasing over the years. Investigations by colleges have increased also but not all reports are examined.


For example in the 2013/2014 academic year, 13 students reported cases of sexual assault or harassment but only three of these were investigated. In 2014/2015 the number of cases reported increased to 15 but only 7 were investigated further.

The following year the same number was reported with 1o investigated and for 2016/17, a total of 10 cases were reported to the institutions but only two investigated. This number jumped to 36 in 2017/2018 but only 12 were taken further.

Zero tolerance

The data comes just weeks after Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin spoke out about her experience of sexual harassment by a colleague in University College Dublin.

In August, the Cork Sexual Violence Centre reported that it received 3,469 calls and texts to its helpline in 2019 with 37% of all new clients indicating that they were third level students.

Founder of the centre Mary Crilly told the Irish Times that three allegations of sexual assault or rape during freshers’ week would be normal.

"There has to be zero tolerance. Universities need to come out with their policies and act on it. The guys need to be called out and told this is not on," she said.


During the week Minister Harris launched the Active* Consent Toolkit: Developing a Consent Strategy for your Higher Education Institution which was produced by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme.

The Active* Consent Toolkit offers guidance to Higher Education Institutions in developing an Action Plan on consent, sexual violence and harassment, as well as addressing consent education through a sustainable and joined up strategy across each campus community. It also provides resources and research from NUI Galway’s new online Active* Consent Programme designed to meet the call for consent education for all students in 2020-2021

The comprehensive toolkit for consent education will be rolled out across 22 Higher Education Institutions featuring new resources and research released led by NUI Galway’s Active Consent Programme.

Mr Harris said the toolkit "will greatly assist institutions in a really practical way. I want to see all of our higher education institutions further embed the consent framework into their policies and procedures so as to ensure a deep and lasting impact."

He continued, "I believe the higher education sector to take on a leadership role in our societal response to sexual violence and harassment, and these are important steps forward to advance that aim."

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