Affirmative consent for sexual interactions became law in NSW on 1 June, 2022, but not all states and territories in Australia have affirmative consent laws. On 29 November, 2022 the Australian Senate referred an Inquiry into current and proposed sexual consent laws in Australia. Today at the Senate Hearing into current and proposed sexual consent laws across Australia, No to Violence CEO Jacqui Watt called for an ‘affirmative consent model’ for any case that comes before the court.
Other recommendations that have been made include harmonising Australia’s consent laws across all jurisdictions to ensure consistency of both laws and understanding of sexual consent which were recommended by both Full Stop Australia and ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety) who both provided submissions to the Inquiry.
The Law Council recognised the inconsistencies in consent laws across various jurisdictions on the experience of victim-survivors in their submission and supported a national evaluation of sexual consent laws. They also recognised that women and girls are more likely than males to have experienced sexual violence and that the ‘incidence of sexual harm often overlaps with other patterns of violence, including family and domestic violence and child abuse, and disproportionately affects already marginalised groups in society’.
‘Sexual violence is widespread but underreported. Most reports of sexual violence do not make it to court,’ pointed out the Law Council.
‘Sexual violence matters suffer from higher attrition within the criminal justice system. For example, in Victoria, only about half of the trials in higher courts end with someone being found guilty which is a lower rate than for most other offences.’
Focus on accused
Ms Watt from No to Violence said that the focus in the court should be on the actions of the accused person in seeking consent rather than the actions of the victim-survivor.
No to Violence was the only peak body for men’s family violence services invited to appear before the Inquiry into nationally consistent sexual consent laws, bringing their specialist expertise in the area of sexual assault in the context of domestic and family violence and intimate partner violence.
‘This Inquiry is an important opportunity to draw a line in the sand and set a new standard for responding to sexual violence in this country,’ said Ms Watt in her opening address at this morning’s session in Melbourne.
‘This is an important step towards reforming our legal and justice system so that victim-survivors can access justice, and men using violence are held accountable for their behaviour,’ said Ms Watt.
‘It is a chance to remove the barriers victim-survivors face in their pursuit of justice, and to send a powerful message to men that their sexually coercive and violent behaviour will not be tolerated.’
NSW DV blitz
Over a recent four day Operation Amarok III by NSW police they took an intelligence-based policing strategy led by each region’s Domestic Violence High-Risk Offender Teams (DVHROT), that ran from Wednesday, 12 July to Saturday, 15 July. During the operation they engaged with high-risk domestic violence offenders on 1,169 occasions, made 315 applications for Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs), served 500 outstanding ADVOs, completed 4,882 ADVO compliance checks and 1,465 bail compliance checks.
A new mobile phone app has also been launched in NSW with the aim of empowering victims of domestic and family violence.
The ‘Empower You’ app, launched on 23 July means that people have access to an innovative new application designed to discreetly document abuse and provide better access to support services.
Sexual consent law reform
‘We know that this goal [ending violence against women and children within a generation] cannot be achieved without working directly with men,’ explains Ms Watt.
‘We look forward to the recommendations and outcomes that arise from this Inquiry and stand ready to work with Government to address men’s use of domestic and family violence including sexual assault.
‘We can do better, and we must.’
Ms Watt cautions that legislative reform will not in and of itself bring about sufficient change.
‘To realise the true potential of the proposed reforms, there needs to be a coordinated approach that includes public awareness and education campaigns, additional supports for victim-survivors of sexual assault, training for key workforces, and support for culturally appropriate and responsive services.’
Men’s Referral Service
Stop the cycle of violence. If you are concerned about your or someone else’s behaviour, call Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit: Men’s Referral Service for advice and support.