The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC), in partnership with the Department of Justice and Community Foundation Ireland, has introduced the country’s first-ever national consent campaign. Launched in the Royal Irish Academy on Wednesday, March 22, We-Consent aims to drive a cultural shift and behavioural change in Ireland regarding consent by encouraging all members of society to engage in non-judgemental and inclusive conversations on the topic, rooted in the lived experiences of real people.
Research undertaken by DRCC suggests that 70% of the Irish population believe there is a problem with consent in this country, while a third of people are embarrassed to talk about sex. The study additionally demonstrates a misunderstanding of consent, with 1 in 5 of those surveyed agreeing that sometimes people say no to sex when they want to be convinced.
Other findings include 84% of participants stating that there is a need for age-appropriate sex education in schools, and 60% saying that consent is an all-society problem that needs state action. Additionally, the research shows that parents have a strong desire to empower their children regarding the issue.
Consent is ongoing, playful, sexy, fun & real. 💬 Today We~Consent is live! We are delighted to launch our new Ad that shows consent as an equal agreement between people!
Consent is for everyone, no matter your age, gender or relationship status. Consent is for you 👐 #WeConsent pic.twitter.com/3m5Zv9nSDh
— We-Consent (@WeConsentIRL) March 22, 2023
Speaking about We-Consent, Noeline Blackwell, Chief Executive Officer of DRCC, said the campaign has been developed to “emphasise the positive values of consent which in turn can help reduce the levels of sexual violence”.
“Every one of us has capacity to learn more and do more when it comes to consent and this campaign will need every one of us to come on board to create a real shift in our society – not only for the next generation, but also for here and now,” she added.
Welcoming the initiative, Minister for Justice Simon Harris stated: “It’s time for all of us to talk honestly and openly about consent, sex and relationships. We all have a role to play in this national conversation, regardless of age, gender, sexuality or relationship status.”
Addressing attendees of the launch event, he also confirmed that this year, the government will “overhaul the legislation in relation to sexual offences,” introducing longer sentences for people guilty of committing such crimes. Additionally, the Minister declared that the “legal understanding of the term consent” will also be updated, and that those in power will work toward achieving a zero-tolerance strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
Thrilled to be at the launch of @WeConsentIRL, Ireland’s first national consent campaign developed by the @DeptJusticeIRL, @DublinRCC and @CommunityFound. What a fantastic and much-needed initiative 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/Sjgs9pCwgu
— Gay Community News (@GCNmag) March 22, 2023
As part of the launch’s panel discussion, former DRCC client and LGBTQ+ community member Chris Rooke spoke about the importance of making this national campaign diverse and inclusive.
“The issues that the LGBTQ community face are not unique…Whatever community you go into in the country, you’re going to find the same issue. They might manifest different, the context for them might be different, but the underlying issues are going to be the same,” he said.
Rooke explained that in order to reach as many people as possible with the initiative, involvement from grassroots organisation is essential, as is ridding the stigma surrounding non-traditional sex practices.
“We have to be able to talk about sex that doesn’t happen in maybe what we would call a conventional kind of way. We have to acknowledge that queer people have sex in different ways maybe to straight people,” he noted.
“We can’t give a model of consent out. It’s not going to work for everyone. You can’t say a verbal ‘Yes’ will do it – that’s useless for the deaf or hard of hearing community.
“But what we can do then is we can see how they are modelling consent when we talk to them about our conceptualisation of consent as an agreement between people, and we can all learn from that.”
We-Consent will be rolled out for three years, with the ad messaging including the tag line: “Sex, maybe. Fun, hopefully. Consent, always.”
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