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These 5th Year students from Kells created a very important campaign about consent in 2016

Introducing It’s The Yes, Not The Dress.

ssfd Source: It's The Yes Not The Dress/Facebook

IN JUNE 2016, a 23-year-old woman stood up in a courtroom and courageously addressed the man who had sexually assaulted her just one year earlier.

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today,” the statement began. The young woman went on to describe in aching detail her experience of being sexually assaulted on Stanford University campus.

Months later, the world was appalled by leaked audio on which the listener could hear President-Elect of the United States Donald Trump making boastful claims of ‘grabbing women by the p***y’.

The incident inspired women to share their stories of sexual assault using the hashtag #NotOkay.

Closer to home, author Louise O’Neill made a powerful documentary called Asking For It, which explored the issues of rape culture and consent, and struck a chord with Irish viewers.

Yes, 2016 was the year that issues of consent and sexual assault were brought to the fore of public discourse.

Among those driving the conversation here in Ireland are a group of 5th Year students from Eureka Secondary School in Kells, Co. Meath, who have started a campaign called It’s The Yes, Not The Dress to raise awareness about the importance of consent.

The young women founded the campaign in Transition Year when they decided to enter Young Social Innovators.

Megan O’Keeffe, one of the campaign’s members, explained to that they decided to focus their efforts on the issue of rape culture and consent.

While many people are familiar with the term ‘rape’, not many are familiar with rape culture, which is all about victim blaming and the justification of the perpetrator. We also felt there was a need for more people to understand the actual meaning of consent.

14702408_728435397295113_1802341167690925547_n Source: It's The Yes Not The Dress/Facebook

The campaign has set up pages on Twitter and Facebook, and regularly shares images and information highlighting the importance of consent.

This Christmas, the young women launched a 12 Days of Consent campaign, which saw them tweet reminders about the importance of consent during the Christmas season.

O’Keeffe says that the group has received “tremendous support” from their school, but believe that there isn’t enough of an emphasis on education around sexual consent in Irish secondary schools.

Only recently have some universities introduced sexual consent workshops, but why wait until college to educate youth on this topic? Sexual assault can happen at any age. We’d like to see sexual consent just as much a priority as maths, Irish and English.

Hearteningly, the group says that they have also received significant support for the campaign from boys and say that they are keen to involve young men in the conversation.

We don’t just focus on sexual violence against women. We’ve also previously highlighted rape towards males and how their voice matters just as much as women’s. 

CzpEY4gUUAU5SAj Source: ItsTheYesNotTheDress/Twitter

Many of the members of the group say that they identify as feminists and cited Lady Gaga, Malala Yousafzai, and Michelle Obama as examples of inspirational feminist figures.

To us feminism is giving a voice to the silent, anyone who has been disregarded by mainstream society has a place in feminism. Gender is not the only thing that feminism, to us, deals with and It’s the Yes not the Dress is a perfect example of it. We are fighting for both men and women in our campaign because anyone can be a rape victim. 

All in all, It’s The Yes, Not The Dress say that the response to their project has been overwhelmingly positive.

Going forward, they hope to get their message through to those who are skeptical of the existence of rape culture.

There’s always some sort of negative feedback, generally from people who just don’t believe in or understand the topic but these are the people we want to get through to. Rape culture isn’t an idea or theory, it’s real and around us every day. 


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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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