The Victorian Government has passed new laws which enshirne affirmative consent in legislation and ban stealthing outright.
The changes to the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) mean those accused of sexual assault now have to prove they received consent, which shifts the scrutiny from the victim to the alleged perpetrator. Victoria has now joined NSW and Tasmania in reworking its laws.
Stealthing is a from of sexual assault which involves removing a condom during sex without the partner’s consent.
The Victorian Government first proposed the reforms in November in response to the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 654-page report into the justice system and how it can be reformed to better protect victims of sexual violence.
The report contained a total of 91 recommendations which would better protect sexual assault victims.
“This will flip it,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes told the ABC at the time.
“This means the questions will be on the perpetrator: What did you do to ensure that you knew the person was consenting to sexual activity?”
“Those that are brave enough to report this conduct often feel re-traumatised by going through the justice system,” Symes continued.
“Whether it’s the interaction with police on the first reporting, the interaction with the service providers and the questioning that goes along with that, and then, of course, any court proceedings and the trial process can be damaging for victims.
“We want to change that.”
The Victorian Government suggested that there is still room to grow in the future, with further reforms in areas such as reporting sexual violence.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report recommends also creating an accessible way for victims to report sexual violence, as well as an Aboriginal sexual assault service and sites that are user-friendly to all people.
“People still do not talk openly about sexual violence,” the report reads.
“They do not always know it is a crime, or how to reach out for support or to find justice. When a person discloses sexual violence, they do not always get a supportive response. These things are barriers to justice.”
It goes without saying that although there is still work to do these changes are incredibly important for sexual assault survivors, and have put Victoria on the path to be a state that’s safer for victims.