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Tackling the difficult issue of consent


Students Joy Fallon, Hannah Holmes and Erin Fadden, from Sancta Maria Secondary School Louisburgh, with their teacher, Helen Corcoran, at the play 'How I Learned About Consent' at Claremorris Town Hall Theatre. Pic: John Corless

Teenagers engaged with detailed workshop

Michael Gallagher

The Tuesday morning breeze whipped through the Claremorris streets as the local Town Hall Theatre buzzed with youthful chatter. Students from Santa Maria in Louisburgh and Crossmolina’s Gortnor Abbey were crowding in to watch the Active Consent Workshop and there was an acute sense of anticipation and the unknown.
Minutes later, a cast of four took to the stage and took everyone on an entertaining, though-provoking tour of different scenarios where consent, peer pressure and perceptions were explored in numerous intriguing ways.
The Active Consent programme in based in University of Galway and works to support young people, communities and organisations to achieve the knowledge, skills and practises essential to positive, assertive consent.
The audience was taken through a number of settings and situations including sharing personal images online, to unwanted sexual advances and cat-fishing. It probed the thoughts, expectations and emotions of the various characters through well-delivered, expressive drama.
Everything was based on facts garnered from nine years of research data and pilot projects and the amount of information delivered during really enjoyable mini-dramas took one’s breath away.
Hugely interesting was the difference between perception and reality - the gap between what people are comfortable with themselves and what they perceive to be other people’s expectations.

Verbalising feelings
Dr Siobhan O’Higgins, Research Fellow at the School of Psychology in University of Galway was on hand to take part in the question and answer session after the mini-plays.
“Giving people the confidence to verbalise their feelings is so important and today’s show was about getting students to think for themselves, to reflect for themselves.
“They’ll go away and some of the images and scenes will come back to them and if they ever find themselves in similar positions they’ll know how to handle it and have the confidence to deal with it the way they want to.
“We work very closely too with parents and teachers and have a lot of resources for schools at consent.ie and we want to give them the skills and confidence to work with young people and the way they deal with sexuality.
“We need to work with our young people and support them because life can be very positive and when we have an understanding of their thought processes we can all feel more comfortable.”

The well-known academic was also very complimentary of the setting for the play and workshop and paid particular credit to John Corless, manager of the Claremorris Town Hall Theatre.
“John had the foresight to contact us when he heard a radio show outlining what the programme is about.
He realised the benefits and understood how it would help students throughout Mayo and the setting here is absolutely ideal.
We have more schools coming to our afternoon show and even more attending tomorrow, so it has been a huge success and a lot of that is down to John.”

Maeve MacHale Teacher,
Gortnor Abbey

I’ve done the consent workshop training and have already rolled out some of that content in Leaving Cert SPHE class which has gone really well. The students have responded brilliantly and I know how much I would have benefitted myself when I was going to school.
Sometimes we perceive things and develop certain expectations but when people actually put words on things a much greater understanding emerges.
Young people are aware of so much these days and exposed to so much, but I don’t know how informed they are and how comfortable they are expressing themselves about sexual matters.
This will certainly give them more food for thought going forward and will back up what we’re doing in SPHE in the school.

Joy Fallon, Erin Fadden, Hannah Holmes
Students, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh

I didn’t expect to be so interested. I thought it might be just another handy day away from the school! There are times when we think that nobody understands me, but today they made everything really universal and relevant. - Joy

It explored all topics in an in-depth way while also having a bit of craic. It wasn’t some older person standing up there telling us something - it was young people acting out situations we could relate to. - Hannah

They went about everything in a respectful way. It was interesting how there was no blame attached to any one gender and that was very important. I liked how the lads could watch it and not feel blamed or be looked at as some type of predators. - Erin


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