NSW campaign ahead of consent law change

Jack GramenzAAP
NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman says sexual consent can't be assumed from silence or inactivity.
Camera IconNSW Attorney General Mark Speakman says sexual consent can't be assumed from silence or inactivity. Credit: AAP

Affirmative sexual consent will be legally required in NSW from next week and an education campaign targeting young people lets them know what it looks like.

"Consent can't be assumed from silence or inactivity," Attorney-General Mark Speakman said on Wednesday.

Intoxication, unconsciousness, coercion and force are not forms of consent, and a defendant will no longer be able to argue they were under the impression consent had been given if they hadn't tried to find out.

Laws passed NSW parliament in November will come into effect on June 1, shifting the focus to an affirmative consent model.

Mr Speakman insists the laws are common sense and not driven by any "woke" ideology.

But he said it was important to get the public on board.

"We can have all the laws in the world, but we have to bring the community along and make sure that everyone understands," Mr Speakman said.

Changing to an affirmative consent model addresses the "freeze" response.

Survivor advocate Saxon Mullins was a catalyst for the changes after sharing her story in an ABC Four Corners program, which prompted a review of NSW consent laws in 2018.

She says the "freeze" response is a massively under reported aspect of sexual violence.

"That is why you need to check in and need to have these conversations," Ms Mullins said.

The Make No Doubt campaign will seek to raise awareness and encourage young people to get consent every time.

She is confident the ads will be better than the federal government's confusing "milkshake" consent ads last year.

"These are real scenarios. These are real things that that young people experience all the time and to show them that it's simple, it's easy, and it's fine to say ... Do you want to do this?"

"That's the main difference between this and some other campaigns we've seen that have tried to be coy in a space where you cannot be coy," Ms Mullins said.

Sexual Violence Prevention Minister Natalie Ward says young people want campaigns to be practical, simple and empowering.

"Obtaining consent is a very practical thing that can be done between two parties very simply," Ms Ward said.

The ads are running on social media to reach the youth they are targeting.

Ads targeting the 16-24 cohort will also be shown on dating apps such as Tinder, or else be restricted to users over 18 on other platforms.

The campaign was launched on the first anniversary of the announcement that affirmative consent laws would be introduced to parliament.

The delay in the laws coming into effect was to give time to the legal system and police to understand the legislation and for public education campaigns to be formulated.

New jury directions will address common myths around rape and sexual assault.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research is also studying the experiences of people who have taken a case to court to try and understand why sexual assaults are under reported and why few make it to court.

Ms Mullins said the real results will be change in the community rather than legislation.

"Our goals are never to have more people put in prison, it's never to see more of these cases go through the courts, it's to stop sexual violence," she said.

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