Submission to the New South Wales Law Reform Commission Review of Sexual Consent Laws

Current sexual consent laws in NSW are not producing justice for victims of sexual assault. Currently, the vast majority of sexual assault victims, disproportionately women and children, have little confidence in the system and choose not to report the violence which has been inflicted upon them. Where women and their children do report the assaults, the experiences of secondary traumatisation and unsuccessful prosecution is far too common.

This submission focusses on the experiences of women who have been subjected to sexual assault in the context of domestic and family violence. Despite evidence which shows that sexual assault is more likely to be perpetrated against a woman by someone that she knows, and most commonly a partner or ex-partner,1 media and policy attention, and the law, continues to focus upon the sexual assault which is perpetrated by strangers in public.

As the peak body for the primary specialist domestic and family violence response for women in NSW, WDVCAS NSW is in a unique position to describe how the current sexual assault laws, and the application of them, impacts upon women in this particular context, and to make recommendations for stronger legislative provisions and more effective legal processes.

The submission draws together material from specialist women’s domestic and family violence workers working with women in across NSW in WDVCASs and commences with a detailed section on the experiences of women who have experienced sexual assault in the context of domestic and family violence. The following section then provides specific submissions in relation to current sexual consent laws in NSW and the legal processes surrounding them with reference to the grassroots perspectives of WDVCAS workers who work with women throughout NSW who have experienced sexual violence in the context of domestic and family violence.

Download the full submission here.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2016; Michele Black, Kathleen Basile, Matthew Breiding, Sharon Smith, Mikel Walters, Melissa Merrick, and Mark Stevens. ‘The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2010 summary report’ (2011) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 19, 39-40.