FEATURE: Louise O'Neill on consent classes, online trolls and being a role model 6 years ago

FEATURE: Louise O'Neill on consent classes, online trolls and being a role model

Asking for It author Louise O Neill is back with a documentary of the same name which delves into the world of sexual assault and sexual consent in Ireland.

O'Neill explains that after writing the book which gained a lot of attention, she felt a responsibility to continue the conversation.

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''When I was writing 'Asking For It' in the first place I didn't set out to start a conversation about consent. I wrote it because I was really interested in the topic and I really wanted to write a book exploring the way in which sexual violence and rape manifested itself within Ireland," she told our colleagues at Her.ie.

"Once [the book] came out and I started to see the impact that it was having I felt a sense of responsibility. A lot of people were talking to me about this and I spoke to a lot of victims and I felt like this was such an important issue so I wanted to continue that conversation.

"When Midas (the production company) approached me about authoring a documentary with them it just seemed like another way continuing the momentum that was building.

With the documentary, her aim is to achieve ‘real change’. I think it's really important we have this conversation create a cultural shift.

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"The real marker of success is if there is going to be any changes at an integral level.

"I really think that they need to introduce mandatory sex education at a much younger as, early secondary school, and it needs to be obligatory in all schools regardless of religion or parents objections and it has to go across both genders. Consent and the definition of it has to play an integral role in that.''

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Creating such an insightful and informative documentary takes a lot of research which means meeting people who want to see a change in Ireland.

She says this was the best part about making the documentary.

One of the people she met was Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill, a woman who was repeatedly raped by her then boyfriend.

"She was just so funny and interesting and smart and after about two hours of talking with her," she says.

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"I left the room really wanting her to be my friend. I felt so inspired by her courage and bravery. She's an astonishing woman."

Traumatic memories

But obviously creating something like this is not easy, real stories and harsh realities can be tough to deal with and she adds that some of the days filming were upsetting.

"There were some days that were upsetting. When we went to speak with the manager of the victims support at the court of criminal justice, we got to see a re-enactment of what it would be like to go to court. Those days were very emotionally draining and quite upsetting. Because I had had personal experience myself it probably brought up quite a lot of traumatic memories," she explains.

O'Neill speaks to Carl Kinsella and Tony Cuddihy from JOE during the documentary. And she explained why it's important to include men in the discussion.

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"We wanted to speak to men because we don't want it to appear as if this is a woman's issue," she says.

"It's not only women who are affected but predominantly the perpetrators are male. They're part of this problem and therefore they have to be part of the solution. I think a key to that solution is education of both men and women."

Other men

O'Neill adds that there were other men they were also interested in speaking to.

"I get a lot of abuse [online] and we were very interested in getting those vitriolic voices to come on and have a conversation. To really understand why they felt so vehemently about this issue.

"It's funny they're all so brave behind their keyboards and once we asked them to have a discussion they were more reluctant."

Being targeted frequently online obviously can take its toll but she doesn’t let it stop her speaking her mind.

''I always thought I had a really good sense of humour about it and laugh it off but then when I went on a social media detox in August and once I did that I realise it was affecting me more than I had thought.

"It has an accumulative affect. I've gotten better now I don't interact at all. Before I was trying to reasons with people who were inherently unreasonable. They don't want to have a debate they want to shout you down and make you feel small.

"They feel threatened by a woman using her own voice, they want to frighten you and put you back in your place, but they're going to have a very hard time doing that with me, she says," she laughs.

Between her book, her columns and her voice on social media, O'Neill has become an inspiration to other young women who want to use their voice for social issues.

''It's so lovely and kind but it's really not warranted," she says.

"I would never put myself in the position of saying I'm a role model. I make loads of mistakes and I still have so much to learn so I would hate to give this image of myself as if I have it all figured out.

"If I could be a role model in any way, it's that I try to be honest and admit that I'm not perfect. I try and be myself and if there were any young women who would ask me for advice, that is what I would encourage them to do.''

Reality Bites: Asking For It airs tonight at 9.30pm on RTE2.