Safe and Equal responds to proposed consent legislation reforms

Thursday 11 August 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the recently proposed reforms to consent legislation in Victoria. These amendments mean that, legally, consent for sexual activity must be actively sought and can be withdrawn at any time. Significantly, this would mean the law recognises that consent cannot be given if coerced under fear or force.

The introduction of this legislation is an important and historical moment in Victoria, and an incredible step forward in upholding the rights of victims of sexual violence.  

“By amending these laws, the Victorian Government is sending a clear message to victim survivors: that they’ve been heard, they are believed, and they deserve better legal recourse,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha. 

“It also sends the message to perpetrators that sexual assault in all forms will not be tolerated by our justice system.”  

Family violence and sexual assault are inextricably linked. Family violence is an ongoing pattern of power and control which results in a victim survivor living in constant fear for their safety. These proposed changes recognise this, and acknowledge that consent cannot be freely given when there’s a threat of family violence. 

“Perpetrators of family violence use a range of complex tactics to maintain control over victim survivors,” said Ms Farha.  

“These tactics, known as coercive control, completely erode a victim survivor’s sense of safety and identity and instil a permanent sense of fear – that’s why these changes are needed.” 

The implementation of this legislation must be supported by broader awareness raising, professional development and education for young people. We know this is on the agenda and urge the government to prioritise the full scope of work needed. 

Changing the law is just one step in recognising and responding to sexual assault and family violence. There’s more work to do, including implementing the rest of the recommendations outlined by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in the Improving the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences Report. 

We commend the Victorian Government for prioritising what is an incredibly complex area of law reform and look forward to working together to create stronger outcomes for victim survivors of sexual assault and family violence and, ultimately, preventing this violence before it occurs. 

We also acknowledge that these reforms would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of many victim survivors – to them, we say thank you. 

Page last updated Thursday, August 11 2022


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