Sexual assault survivors put at centre of law changes
Consent advocate Saxon Mullins says it's important survivors of sexual violence use their voice to push for change as discrepancies in consent laws come under the microscope.
A parliamentary inquiry is examining the adequacy of sexual consent laws across Australia, with some states, including NSW and Victoria, using an affirmative consent model.
Labor senator Nita Green said she thought she had always been unlucky, or at the wrong place at the wrong time, when reflecting on her experiences and that of her friends.
"But what I now know is that it's not luck, 20 years later after these sorts of things have happened, the statistics have remained the same," she said.
Differences across jurisdictions mean someone from the Gold Coast holidaying just over the border in Byron Bay would have to navigate a new set of consent laws.
"Affirmative consent is a really good standard to get to but how it's applied in each different jurisdiction is something we want to get from this inquiry," Senator Green said.
"Across Australia, we have seen multiple state governments reviewing consent laws with varied findings.
"This inquiry is going to take the reigns of this conversation and collate that evidence base, informed by people who actually are affected by these laws."
Ms Mullins will give testimony to the inquiry after her case led to the push for affirmative consent laws in NSW.
"Sexual violence is such a dehumanising act and it does really take away your agency," she said.
"A lot of survivors find strength in using their voice in a meaningful way."
She said retelling her story remained scary and she had doubts about whether that feeling would ever change.
But she said she's found solace in the fact the public has become more understanding about the plight of survivors, making it easier to speak out.
"It's always going to be difficult and it's always going to be painful, but when I can feel how meaningful that's going to be, it does make it that bit easier," she said about repeatedly telling her story.
"For a long time, I have felt that they're listening and that helps me to share. I myself have found a lot of power and a lot of healing in sharing my story."
Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy CEO Rachael Burgin said education was also an important factor in reducing sexual assaults and informing people about what consent means.
"The goal should always be prevention," Dr Burgin said.
"We want less people to have to use the criminal justice system. We want less people to have to survive sexual violence."
Inquiry submissions close on March 16.
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