Vic laws shift towards affirmative consent

·2-min read

New Victorian laws will make it clear that "stealthing" is a crime and crack down on perpetrators who dole out intimate images and deepfake porn.

The laws being introduced to parliament on Thursday adopt an affirmative consent model, emphasising everyone's responsibility to get consent before engageing in a sexual act.

Under the changes, a person must have a clear and enthusiastic go-ahead for their belief in consent to be reasonable, shifting scrutiny off victims and back onto perpetrators.

The consent can include, but is not limited to, verbally asking and getting a "yes" in response, a physical gesture such as a nod, or reciprocating a move such as removing clothes.

"An affirmative consent model is an important part of changing community attitudes towards sexual offences moving away from victim-blaming and reducing the shame and trauma often felt by victim-survivors," Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said.

Too often the justice system is stacked against victim-survivors of sexual assault, Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack said.

Ms McCormack encouraged the government to invest in training for justice system staff and other laws to help victims.

"Hopefully, this legislation will translate not only to better justice outcomes for victims of sexual assault but also provide an opportunity for a broader conversation in the community about the nature of respectful sexual relationships," she said.

The bill clarifies that stealthing - which is removing, tampering with, or not using a condom without consent - is a crime.

By doing so, authorities were not only condemning that behaviour but making it easier for victims to realise when it has happened to them, Ms Symes said.

Additionally, the laws target image-based sexual abuse, which includes taking intimate videos of someone without their consent as well as distributing or threatening to distribute intimate images, including deepfake porn.

The bill includes jury directions, which the government says will address misconceptions in sexual offence trials. Reforms will also better protect sexual offence complainants' confidential health information.

Speaking at the parliament on Thursday, Ms Symes said she was not sure whether the bill had bi-partisan support, but if passed the laws would come into effect by June next year.

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