Latest News

Laws Around Affirmative Consent & Stealthing In Victoria Are Set To Be Introduced

A huge win for the state.

Trigger Warning: this article deals with sexual assault and may be triggering to some readers.

In a huge step forward for Victoria, laws around sexual offences are set to be overhauled for the better.

An affirmative consent model, similar to that in Tasmania and (hopefully) soon in NSW, is set to be adopted in the state. The model stipulates that a person must take active steps to ensure a person has consented to sex before engaging in the act.

If the offence goes to court, the onus is on the accused person to prove consent was established, as opposed to the accuser needing to prove they did not give it. 

The Victorian Government is also set to criminalise stealthing, which is the act of a person removing a condom or other protection during sex without the other person’s knowledge or consent.

The news comes after an 18-month examination of the state’s justice system pertaining to sexual offences by the Victorian Law Reform Commission. 

The Commission gave a total of 91 recommendations to the Victorian government after finding that sexual violence was widespread and heavily under-reported. It also found that victims of sexual violence needed better support and protection during the reporting and judicial process.

Victoria’s Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said of the findings on Friday: “This landmark report highlights just how much work there is to do to deliver a justice system that works for victim-survivors.”

“It’s an enormous job – and we’ll work closely with those who know this issue best to get it done. To victim-survivors, we hear you. The system must change. This is too important not to act.”

Per The Age, the Government will commit to an initial $5.2 million in funding to boost sexual assault services as more people are encouraged to come forward and report the crimes. 

Along with an affirmative consent model and the criminalisation of stealthing, the Commisson also recommended: 

  • Using restorative justice as the common alternative to trials around sexual assault, which better protects victims. 
  • Providing Government support to survivors in order to help them take civil action against offenders.
  • Mandatory training for judges, magistrates and barristers who deal with sexual offending to ensure they have the best possible understanding and sensitivity for the duration of the criminal justice process. 

The announcement was met with an overwhelming response, with Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams saying: “Victim-survivors have lived silently with the trauma of sexual violence for too long.” 

“Today, we honour their strength, resilience and courage – delivering reform that will assist in getting the justice they deserve.” 

It comes in the same week that New South Wales’ affirmative consent bill passed the lower house. If it is passed by the upper house, it will become law for sexual activity to be actively communicated by words or actions, rather than assumed.

In Tasmania, the law already requires this.

In regards to stealthing, Victoria follows the Australian Capital Territory in criminalising the act. The ACT was the first jurisdiction to do so in the country, with a unanimous passing of the Bill announced in October. 

Speaking to SBS in October, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia CEO Hayley Foster said stealthing was a “massive” and “much bigger” problem than the public realised.

“Those of us that work on the frontlines and supporting people directly impacted by sexual assault know that it’s something that has actually gotten worse over time,” she said.

“It something that hasn’t really been spoken about and I think part of that is because the law haven’t been explicit about it.”

If you are experiencing sexual abuse or other unwanted behaviour, please contact Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.

Related stories