NSW Consent Laws Are Being Overhauled, And It’s A Huge Win For Sexual Assault Survivors

Finally, 'yes means yes' will be recognised in the NSW legal system.

NSW Consent

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Sexual consent laws are changing for the better in NSW. The state’s courts and justice system will move towards ‘affirmative consent’ — where all parties must explicitly communicate, and confirm sexual consent without doubt.

Content Warning: This article contains discussion of sexual assault.

“There cannot be consent unless the party in question has said something or done something to communicate consent,” NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said in a press conference today. “In other words, you just can’t assume [from] lack of resistance or lack of protest, that consent has been given.”

People will also need to have taken verbal or active steps to check and confirm consent from those they’re engaging in sexual acts with.

The Attorney-General also confirmed that consent must be voluntarily and freely given, can be withdrawn at anytime, and does not mean a blanket yes for everything. He also noted that intoxication is not a reason to not seek out consent.

“This is about holding perpetrators to account, but more than that it’s about changing community behaviour. It’s about having a society where people ask simple questions: ‘are you consenting?’”

In November last year, the NSW Law Reform Commission released 44 recommendations to improve consent laws. All will be enacted, Speakman confirmed.

“In 2017 I walked out of the NSW High Court feeling lost, alone, and powerless,” co-director of advocacy at Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy, Saxon Mullins, wrote in a statement about the announced reforms.

“I didn’t consent, the Court acknowledged that I wasn’t consenting, and yet somehow that wasn’t enough.”

Mullins is a sexual assault survivor whose story came to light in a high profile rape trial that showed how current consent laws favour perpetrators. Prior to the announced changes, non-vocalised or implied consent were enough in the eyes of the court.

“I could never have imagined the amount of work that would go into attempting to change this legislation that caused survivors so much pain.”

“[Years] of our lives devoted to begging and pleading with people to listen to reason. It was supposed to be a marathon, it mainly ended up feeling like we were mice in a wheel. Today we have reached the finish line.”

The ACT is next up to review their consent laws, but the territory was reportedly waiting on NSW’s implementation before approaching their own reforms.

“This of course isn’t the end of our work, nowhere near, but 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 wrote.

“I can never go back and change the outcome of my case, but we have changed how some stories will end.”

The legislation reforms won’t be implemented for at least another six months, Nine News reported.