10182019What's Hot:

In Australia, Woman’s Story Sets Off Debate on Sexual Consent

Ms. Mullins told the news program she was on “autopilot,” wanting to get away. She said she thought, “Just do what he says, and then you can go.”

She added: “I just kind of froze, you know. I was just trying to, like — and I know it doesn’t make sense but — block it out. Just wait till it was over.”

In the trial that followed, a jury convicted Mr. Lazerus, despite his testimony that Ms. Mullins never said “stop” or “no.” He spent 11 months in jail before he won a jury-less retrial, where he was acquitted. State prosecutors pushed for a third trial, but an appeals court deemed the request unfair. The legal process lasted almost five years.

In acquitting Mr. Lazerus, Judge Robyn Tupman said that testimony from a female friend of his about sex on a first date had given her “insight into contemporary morality” — conveying Mr. Lazurus’s hyperaggressive behavior as within the bounds of modern sexual norms.

While Judge Tupman acknowledged that Ms. Mullins did not actively consent to the sex, she said her ruling focused on whether or not Mr. Lazerus knew she had not consented — a wrinkle that many view as a main limitation of the law.

Australia’s laws on the issue vary by state and territory. In announcing the commission into sexual consent laws, Pru Goward, the New South Wales minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said she believed the state should model itself after the state of Tasmania, where sexual consent needs to be active.

“You must explicitly ask for permission to have sex. If it’s not an enthusiastic yes, then it’s a no,” Ms. Goward said.

“The Tasmanian legislation is probably the most victim-centered,” said Helen Cockburn, a lecturer in criminal law at the University of Tasmania. “Where the victim is passive, there’s a presumption that they’re not consenting.”

In many other Australian jurisdictions, courts will look to see whether the victim actively resisted, in order to satisfy that they were nonconsenting, Dr. Cockburn added.

But discussion, too, has swelled around sexual culture in Australia, and whether changing the law can effect the change that victims of sexual violence seek.

“Law reform is not necessarily going to give us the answers that we want,” Dr. Cockburn said. “I think there are problems around consent literacy.”

Ms. Mullins said in the televised interview that a bit of education could clear up a lot of uncertainty. “Enthusiastic consent is really easy to determine. I think if you don’t have that, then you’re not good to go.

“All you need to say is, ‘Do you want to be here?’ And, very clearly, ‘Do you want to have sex with me?’”

Kate Bettes, 24, a journalism student in Sydney, said: “I think it’s not only the laws, but the understanding and culture around consent in Australia, and around the world, that are horribly confusing. It should not only be ‘No means no,’ but more importantly, ‘Yes means yes,’” she said

Groups pushing for tighter laws also say that a fundamental paradigm shift is needed in Australia.

“People are still going to blame victims,” said Nina Funnell, the director of End Rape on Campus Australia, an advocacy group. “Unless we address those attitudes and beliefs surrounding consent, very little will change.”

Source: NYT > World

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic