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Affirmative consent model passed in Victorian Parliament

The Andrews Labor government’s proposed sexual violence reforms have passed in Parliament, “sending a clear message to Victorians that there’s no room for this inexcusable behaviour”.

user iconJess Feyder 01 September 2022 Politics
Affirmative consent model passed in Victorian Parliament
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The Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022 was introduced to Parliament on 4 August and was passed within the month.  

The legislation includes amendments that will adopt an affirmative consent model, which seeks to provide better protections for victim-survivors of sexual offences.

The amendments aim to shift scrutiny from victim-survivors onto perpetrators. The model makes it clear that everyone has a responsibility to receive consent before engaging in sexual activity.


“Victorians have made it clear there’s no room for victim-blaming and outdated attitudes around sexual violence — these new affirmative consent laws will ensure our justice system keeps up with those expectations,” said Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.

For their belief in consent to be reasonable, a person must have taken steps by saying or doing something to find out if the other person consents — it must be a clear and enthusiastic go-ahead.

This can include, but isn’t limited to, verbally asking and getting a “yes”, a physical gesture like a nod, or reciprocating a move such as removing clothing.

Even if a person meets this requirement, their belief in consent must still be informed by all other circumstances in the interaction. For example, it must consider other cues, such as pushing away the accused’s hand or facial reactions.

The reforms have also clarified that circumstances where there is no consent to an act, including the removal, non-use or tampering of a condom — commonly referred to as “stealthing” — without the other person’s consent, is a crime.

“By making it crystal clear that stealthing is a crime, we’re not only condemning it but making it easier for victims to realise what’s happened to them — and that it isn’t something to be ashamed of,” said the A-G. 

The bill also includes stronger laws to target image-based sexual abuse, which includes taking intimate videos of someone without their consent and distributing, or threatening to distribute, intimate images, including deepfake porn.

It also includes new jury directions to address misconceptions in sexual offence trials, and reforms to better protect the confidential health information of sexual offence complainants.

The government consulted extensively with victim-survivors to ensure that lived experiences were at the heart of the reforms and would be effective in building long-lasting changes. They also consulted with the courts and other key stakeholders.

The Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Ros Spence said that the laws are a crucial step in stopping all forms of violence against women.

“Every Victorian has a responsibility to challenge the harmful behaviours, attitudes and assumptions that lead to sexual violence.

“This new standard of consent in Victoria shifts the focus away from the victim and towards the accused and what actions they took to confirm consent,” said Ms Spence.

The reforms will be supported by community-based education delivered by local organisations and specialist services, announced in the Victorian budget 2022–23

They will start to come into effect next month, with the affirmative consent model to be in place from July 2023 unless proclaimed earlier.