Long overdue reform into Western Australia’s sexual assault laws welcome

Sexual violence is a major social, health and welfare issue in Western Australia and elsewhere. Sexual violence can occur within intimate partner relationships and outside of these relationships. The Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing (CWSW) welcomes the long overdue review into Western Australia’s sexual assault laws tabled in parliament today.  

CWSW is pleased the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia’s Final Report recommends the State adopt an affirmative consent model to apply to sexual offences. This finally brings WA into line with other jurisdictions across the country. The Cook Government’s commitment to legislate affirmative consent will be welcomed by victim-survivors and across the sector.   

Quotes from the Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing CEO Alison Evans below.  

“With over 1 in 5 women experiencing sexual violence since the age of 15, these welcome reforms are crucial to strengthen the way the criminal justice system responds to sexual assault and to prevent further harm to victims and survivors through the justice process.”  

“The adoption of the affirmative consent model is only one of the recommendations in the Final Review. The Government is yet to commit to the other 131. This includes an expansion of the list of circumstances where a person cannot consent to sexual activity. An affirmative consent model is critically important, but this needs to be acknowledged within the context of intimate partner violence – for example when a person is experiencing coercive control.  It is vital that this expansion is legislated to reflect the prevalence of sexual assault in the context of intimate partner violence. 

“CWSW is also hopeful that the Government will accept the remaining recommendations including the modification of the definition of consent to allow its withdrawal at any time, explicit criminalisation of stealthing, legislating jury directions about the nature of sexual violence, trauma responses and allowing for expert evidence in courtrooms on sexual violence and more training for police, lawyers and judicial officers.  

“It is also crucial that the Longman warning – a required direction that judges must give in sexual assault cases where there has been a delay between the offence and it’s reporting, that states the impact of delay on the forensic process makes it dangerous or unsafe to convict – be removed as recommended by the report.  “This warning does not reflect the fact that delays in reporting are an almost universal feature of sexual offence matters. This warning actively penalises victim-survivors who report/proceed with prosecution of sexual assaults. This goes to the heart of the affirmative consent reform, which reflects trauma-informed processes. Delays in reporting sexual assault are reasonable in our current social context and are often a result of victim survivors fearing they will not be believed or will be blamed for their victimisation.”

CWSW E News

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