NSW has unveiled huge changes to sexual consent laws, adopting an affirmative consent model that sexual assault survivor advocates have spent years campaigning for.
The proposed changes come after a report by the NSW Law Reform Commission (LRC) was published last November, which analysed consent laws in the state.
In response, the Government said it is adopting, or adopting in principle, all 44 of the LRC’s recommendations.
Survivor advocate Saxon Mullins, whose story of sexual assault on ABC’s Four Corners prompted the LRC review, said affirmative consent laws is “a huge win for survivors.”
“After so many years of fighting for this, it’s almost hard to believe we’ll actually have affirmative consent laws in NSW,” Mullins, who is also the director of Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy, said.
“I know there’s so much more to do in this space, but this is a huge win for survivors, and I’m so grateful for all the survivors and academics who’ve paved the way for this to happen.”
The new model means a person does not consent to sexual activity unless they said or did something to communicate consent. So a jury could convict a rapist if they didn’t actively obtain consent for sex.
The reform also means that an accused person can’t reasonably believe they were given consent unless they said or did something to ascertain it. And that better recognises the ‘freeze’ response, when a person freezes due to fear and can’t communicate their lack of consent.
“No one should assume someone is saying ‘yes’ just because they don’t say ‘no’ or don’t resist physically,” Attorney General Mark Speakman said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Steps should be taken to make sure all parties are consenting.”
⚖️An honour today to announce #consent law reform with @smitchellmlc, @nswpolice and survivor-advocate @SaxonAdair.
⚖️I aim to have a bill before Parliament next session to enshrine #affirmativeconsent in #nswlaw.
⚖️Thanks to all who made it possible.https://t.co/phY9bZ59bS pic.twitter.com/cqeNm7aj1M
— Mark Speakman (@MarkSpeakman) May 25, 2021
In a separate statement shared on social media, Mullins added that while this is nowhere near the end of her advocacy work, it is still a cause for celebration.
“In a space where the wins can sometimes feel few and far between, I’d like to take this time to celebrate this one,” Mullins shared.
Affirmative consent is law in NSW pic.twitter.com/UrpL2s2vkY
— Saxon Mullins (@SaxonAdair) May 25, 2021
“I can never go back and change the outcome of my case, but we have changed how stories will end,” she said.