Ashling Murphy murder sparks surge in demand for bystander intervention program


The expert behind the UCC intervention program says she has been “inundated with requests” from schools across the country wanting to enroll in a pilot program following the murder of Ashling Murphy.

Professor Louise Crowley of UCC Law School said the pilot scheme would be rolled out to participating schools after Easter, after funding was granted this week by the Irish Research Council.

It aims to educate and empower young people to speak up as bystanders when they notice sexual harassment and violence, and to demand a zero tolerance approach.

Since the tragic murder of a 23-year-old teacher, Prof Crowley said there has been a huge spike in interest in the scheme, particularly among secondary schools who want to get involved in the pilot.

“Initially there were supposed to be around 10 schools in Cork, but since last week I’ve been inundated with requests from schools all over the country,” she said.

“Principals really want their students to have these conversations. They want these things addressed and not glossed over,” Professor Crowley said.

“They want them to be front and center for their students to talk about. That’s why there’s been such a reception for this pilot project and a growing appetite for it across the country,” she added. .

Professor Crowley said the interest of second tier educators is welcome, as sometimes third tier intervention can be too late.

“People come to the third level with these behaviors already ingrained, or people are already victims of sexual harassment and violence, or have perpetrated it.

“I have a feeling this pilot will be really meaningful and impactful,” she said.

“There is so much work to do, but there is also such an appetite for it in schools, sports organizations and big companies.

“I think we have to understand that because we can’t assume it’s going to stay.

“We can’t assume that people will continue to have these conversations unless we facilitate or help them have them, and provide them with the information,” she added.

The bystander intervention program was first piloted at UCC in 2016 by Professor Crowley; it is now a voluntary module available to all UCC staff and students, in addition to being directly integrated into the curriculum of some courses.

The high school pilot is the continuation of a similar pilot in 2019 that was cut short due to the pandemic.

Participants follow self-directed online workshops, an interactive group session and personal reflection, all of which explore different scenarios around sexual assault and violence, and how and when a bystander can safely intervene.

The high school pilot will include six classes, presented at the TY level, each focusing on a key issue such as inhibiting intervention, what constitutes sexual harassment and violence, and what intervention looks like.

Professor Crowley said the 2019 high school pilot was a big hit before it was cut short.

“We changed all the material and all the language to make it age-appropriate, but we didn’t hide from the issues,” she said.

We talked about rape, we talked about sexual assault, we talked about consent, we really brought the issues home.

“Students said it was the first time these issues were discussed in a language that was recognizable to them,” she said.

“They were really grateful for that kind of honesty, calling out key issues and giving them the opportunity to talk about the culture and the behavior of the boys in a way that they didn’t have before.”

Those interested in participating or learning more about the Bystander Intervention Program can visit the website or contact [email protected]

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