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State makes affirmative consent the law

Reforms which will change how sexual violence is dealt with in Victoria have passed the state’s parliament.

The new laws include amendments which will adopt an affirmative consent model and provide better protections for victim-survivors of sexual offences.

One of the laws’ intentions is to shift the scrutiny from victim-survivors onto their perpetrators.

The new rules will include, but aren’t limited to, verbally asking and getting a ”yes”, a physical gesture like a nod, or reciprocating a move such as removing clothes.

Even if a person meets this minimum requirement to take steps, their belief in consent must still be reasonable in all the circumstances.

couple kissing in the bedroom
Camera IconThe new laws will provide better protections for victim-survivors of sexual offences. Generic image Credit: News Corp Australia

This can include, for example, taking into consideration whether the steps were received clearly enough, or if there were cues such as pushing away the accused’s hand or facial reactions.

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Ros Spence, said the laws are intended to shift the responsibility to the person who is accused of sexual violence.

“Every Victorian has a responsibility to challenge the harmful behaviours, attitudes and assumptions that lead to sexual violence,” she said.

“This new standard of consent in Victoria shifts the focus away from the victim and towards the accused and what actions they took to confirm consent.”

The Bill also includes stronger laws to target image-based sexual abuse, which includes taking intimate videos of someone without their consent and distributing, or threatening to distribute, intimate images, including deepfake porn.

VICTORIAN PARLIAMENT
Camera IconAttorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the new laws were keeping up with changing attitudes. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

New jury directions to address misconceptions in sexual offence trials and reforms to better protect the confidential health information of sexual offence complainants are also included.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the law changes are a way of keeping up with changing attitudes around sexual violence.

“Victorians have been clear there’s no room for victim-blaming and outdated attitudes around sexual violence – these laws will ensure our justice system keeps up,” she wrote on Twitter.

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