What is Sexual Health?
As part of the DCU Healthy initiative we aim to improve sexual health literacy, attitudes and behaviours through policy and awareness campaigns. The World Health Organisation defines sexual health as ‘a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled’.
Sexual health is an important part of college life and often a time when students make decisions that can impact their sexual health and overall health and wellbeing. Communication and informed decision making are essential to clearly express your desires, needs, consent, personal boundaries and use of protection to potential sexual partners. Decisions may include abstaining from sex, being sexually active, gender of partners and also the types of contraception. You should aim to be informed about your sexual health, to make good decisions about sexual behavior and to be comfortable with your sexual self. It is important to seek advice as necessary so as to ensure that your decisions are in the best interest of yourself and others and to minimize potential risks. In this section we will give you advice, tips, resources and services to support your sexual health, to make informed choices and to minimize risk.
Safe Sex means using protective measures to avoid exposure to sexually transmitted infections. It generally refers to practices that do not involve the exchange of bodily fluids, including blood, sperm, vaginal secretions, and saliva, to avoid AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. To practice safe sex means to make an informed decision about how to practice safe sex. Here are our top safe sex tips:
- Always use a condom. The Welfare Officer in the Students' Union gives out free condoms to students.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have. The more partners that you have the greater the chance of coming into contact with sexually transmitted infection (STI’s).
- Mutual consent. Talk to your partner before having sex and make sure you are on the same page. The only way to know for sure whether someone has consented to sex is if they tell you.
- Communicate and talk to your partner about how you can practice safer sex. Having an open and respectful conversation will make things less stressful.
- Don’t impair your judgement – Remember too much alcohol can affect your judgement.
- Contraception such as birth control is only that and does not protect from STI’s.
- Respect yourself and make informed decisions. Don’t feel pressurised into doing anything that you are not comfortable with or may regret.
- Get Tested. If you are concerned about your sexual health make an appointment in the DCU Health Centre.
Relationships and dating can be really exciting but it can get complicated and confusing around sex and intimacy. At times it can be unclear how the other person feels and messages can be confusing and read wrong. When it comes to sex it is always important that you both give permission for the duration of the sex, which basically is consent. Sex without consent can mean sexual assault or rape. So how can you ensure consent. Here are the top tips from on sexual respect and consent.
Talk about it
The only way to know for sure whether someone has consented to sex is if they tell you. It can be hard to let people know you’re not interested in going that far. People might look happy about doing something, but on the inside they might not be, and don’t know how to tell you they’re uncomfortable. To be absolutely clear, you should ask them. Here’s some suggestions on how to do ask:
- Are you happy?
- Are you comfortable?
- Is there anything you don’t want to do?
- Do you want to stop?
- Do you want to have sex?
Examples of body language that can mean someone isn’t comfortable with what’s going on include:
- Not responding to your touch
- Pushing you away
- Holding their arms tightly around their bodies
- Turning away from you or hiding their face
- Stiffening muscles
If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of your questions, or if your partner’s body language is negative, stop what you’re doing and talk to them about it.
Other things you can do
Holding hands, sending flirty texts, kissing, hugging and touching are all ways of being intimate without having sex. You might enjoy kissing, but not feel ready to have sex. Or you might have had sex before, but not feel like it every time you kiss, or get intimate. It’s really important to make sure both of you are comfortable with what’s happening. Everyone has the right to say no. Equally, everyone has the right change their mind at any time, regardless of their past experiences.
Slowing down and stopping
Sometimes things move too quickly.Things you can say to slow things down include:
- ‘I don’t want to go any further than kissing/hugging/touching.’
- ‘Can we stay like this for while?’
- ‘Can we slow down?’
It’s OK at any stage to want to stop. Just explain you’re not comfortable. Be clear about saying no. However, saying no when we really mean yes can send mixed messages and confuse the situation. Treat the word ‘no’ seriously, so people know when we’re sincere about stopping.
Here is a great video that explains consent, Consent it’s as simple as Tea.
Alcohol can affect people’s ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to have sex. This means if someone’s really out of it, they can’t give consent. If you see a friend who’s drunk being intimate with someone, pull them aside to make sure they know what they’re doing. If your friend is the one getting intimate with a drunk person, pull them aside too, because they might get themselves into trouble.
Deciding to become sexually intimate with a partner can be a big step to take in a relationship, especially since, for many people, having sex involves an emotional commitment as well as a physical one. If you decide to develop the relationship into a sexual one, it is vital that you are protected from a crisis pregnancy or STI infections. For more information on the forms of contraception and safe sex practices visit the DCU Health Centre website or the HSE Guide to Contrception.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) or sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) are infections or disease passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most STI’s do not cause any symptoms but can pose a serious health risk. Others cause symptoms such as unusual discharge, ulcers or pelvic pain. For more information on the different types of Sexually Transmitted Infection, symptoms and support services visit the DCU Health Centre website.
Whether a pregnancy is planned or unplanned it can still come as a shock. If you think you may be pregnant, it needs to be confirmed. It is best to wait 4 days from when your period is due (or 32 days after the first day of your last period). A reliable home pregnancy test kit can be bought from any pharmacy. You can attend your GP, Student Health Centre or Family Planning organisation. Some agencies offer free testing with medical cards. When faced with a pregnancy it is best to give yourself some time to think about your feelings, reflect on your values, identify your support systems and evaluate all your options. It is also important to talk to family and friends or student support services in DCU. For more information on unplanned pregnancy visit the DCU Health Centre website.
Rape or Sexual Assault:
DCU takes the issue of respect, of all forms, very seriously and believes that each student should enjoy a student experience free from abuse or harassment of any type. We are here to help and support you and to ensure that you receive the support and treatment you may need following a rape or sexual assault.
Support at DCU:
A rape or sexual assault can be very difficult to deal with and we would strongly advise you to get support from a close friend and/or a member of university staff. We have dedicated advocates in DCU who have received training in supporting students who have been raped / sexually assaulted, and they will provide you with support for as long as you need this. You will be treated with complete confidentiality. The following people can be contacted, and will know how to help you:
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have a 24/7 line that you can call for support and advice on rape and sexual assault. Tel: 1800 77 8888
What will happen if I approach a member of staff in DCU?
We will always respect the wishes of the student and their welfare, so don’t be afraid that we will automatically ask you to report the incident, if you are not / not yet comfortable to do this. The focus of the staff member will be to ensure that you are physically and psychologically supported at all times.
You have options.
Option A: I just want to make sure that I am not pregnant / have not contracted an STI and may need some psychological support. I do not want to report the incident to the Guards.
The member of staff will talk to you about the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) and the work that the medical team there do. SATU will most likely carry out a full physical examination and provide whatever treatment is necessary.
SATU also provide psychological support for as long as you may need.
Option B: I want support but may want to report the incident to the Guards too, but I’m not sure.
DCU can arrange for the DCU Liaison Guard to meet you confidentially and talk through what will happen if you do decide to report. The Liaison Guards are DCU-dedicated Guards who support our student body and have experience with crimes of this nature. The member of staff can stay with you through the meeting or you may choose to bring a friend, it’s up to you. Following this meeting, you may decide to go ahead and report, and, in conjunction with the Liaison Guard, we will support you in doing this…or you may decide not to report, in which case, we will simply continue to support you in whatever way you need us.
If you do not want the University to provide support, you can contact the National Sexual Violence Helpline or call 180077888 or the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) directly. Details can be found here.
Resources / Information
Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU)
The Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) provides physical and psychological support if you have, or think you have been raped. In the case of a rape, it is crucial that you get immediate care from a medical team, who will provide care and treatment to you in a professional and non-judgemental manner. You can contact a member of staff 24/7.
My Options is a service provided by the HSE which provides information and support on all of your options following an unplanned pregnancy.
DCU Student Health Centre
The Health Centre at DCU provides support for all students. You can arrange to speak to a nurse free of charge and be supported.
DCU Counselling Service
If your preference is to speak to a Counsellor in the first instance, you will find details of the counselling team here. Make it clear when you are registering that you need to make an emergency appointment, to avoid delays.
DCU Sexual Misconduct Policy
DCU is committed to providing a safe environment for students and staff and regards as completely unacceptable any form of sexual misconduct. DCU’s Sexual Misconduct Policy further outlines the University’s position in this regard.
|DCU Counselling Service||This is a professional, confidential and free service, which is available to all registered undergraduate and postgraduate DCU students|
|DCU Student Health Service||The Student Health Service is a Nurse-Led service, providing on-campus primary healthcare to currently registered students of DCU|
|DCU Counselling Service Bibliotherapy||The use of books for therapeutic purposes is known as ‘bibliotherapy’ and is the term used to cover the use of self-help books addressing psychological and emotional issues and difficulties. DCU has a comprehsive bibliotherapy and a copy of each of the books is available in the DCU Library, Glasnevin Campus for reference. A full book list is availale here|
|The DRCC provides immediate help to victims, family and friends and will provide help and advice https://www.drcc.ie/need-help-|
You will find rape crisis centre around the country, outside of Dublin https://www.drcc.ie/get-help-
This website is the HSE website and is a source of information for men and women who want to learn more about sexual health. Visit www.thinkcontraception.ie
HSE Sexual Wellbeing