Victorians may risk committing a sexual crime if they don’t gain informed consent from a sexual partner, under new laws proposed for the state.
The government on Thursday announced a complete overhaul of the way sexual offences are reported and dealt with, bringing in major reforms for the issue.
It will also amend laws to make stealthing a crime.
An affirmative consent model will be adopted in response to key recommendations from a Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report.
“To victim-survivors, we hear you,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said.
“The system must change. This is too important not to act.”
The proposed changes to the Crimes Act 1958 will mean a person must confirm they have received consent.
As part of the initial response, the government will deliver a $5.2m funding boost to specialist sexual assault services, to help respond to increasing reporting and demand.
The funding will allow services to hire extra staff, provide more specialist support sessions and help to hundreds more women and children.
Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams said legislation would be introduced next year.
“Sexual assault violates trust, autonomy and respect in some of our most vulnerable moments – too often perpetrated by those who are supposed to love us the most,” she said.
“Victim-survivors have lived silently with the trauma of sexual violence for too long.”
The VLRC report found sexual violence was widespread, caused serious harm and was significantly under-reported.
The government will consider all of the VLRC’s recommendations, including how criminal investigations and trials can be improved to minimise trauma, how the system can better support victim-survivors and keep them informed, and how education and outreach can shift community attitudes about sexual offending and consent.
“This landmark report highlights just how much work there is to do to deliver a justice system that works for victim-survivors,” Ms Symes said.
“It’s an enormous job – and we’ll work closely with those who know this issue best to get it done.”