Northern Territory Law Reform Committee: Inquiry into consent for sexual offences
This submission draws on the evidence base to respond to the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee’s (NTLRC) Inquiry into consent for sexual offences, highlighting the benefits and challenges of introducing an affirmative consent model to support victims and survivors.
The NTLRC invited submissions to the Inquiry into consent for sexual offences in 2023. ANROWS provided a submission, drawing on our evidence base, to highlight the benefits and challenges of an affirmative consent model, to suggest amendments to the definition of “harm” and propose further inclusions to jury directions. This submission follows previous submissions to jurisdictional inquiries and reviews on consent laws and sexual offences in New South Wales, Queensland and at a Commonwealth level.
ANROWS’s submission made the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: Consider including affirmative consent as a core component of legislation on consent for sexual offences.
- Recommendation 2: ANROWS supports the recognition of stealthing as a criminal offence. ANROWS suggests that the NTLRC could consider how the introduction of an affirmative consent model could allow for emerging forms of non-consensual behaviour, such as stealthing, to be addressed proactively rather than by individual criminalisation.
- Recommendation 3: Consider removing outdated references to “gross indecency” in the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) and replacing these with contemporary and inclusive language.
- Recommendation 4: Consider expanding the circumstances in which a person does not consent to include domestic and family violence and coercive control.
- Recommendation 5: Consider expanding the definition of harm to include harm directed at pets or other animals; harm to the person’s employment; economic or financial harm; reputational harm; sexual harassment; and harm to the person’s family, cultural or community relationships.
- Recommendation 6: Consider amending the law to provide that a person is reckless as to whether the other person consents to sexual activity if they do not take steps to ascertain whether the other person consents.
- Recommendation 7: Consider how the defence of mistaken belief intersects with, contradicts and undermines the affirmative consent model.
- Recommendation 8: Consider expanding jury directions in sexual offence cases to address:
- misconceptions of consent and mistrust of allegations
- the “stranger rape” myth
- how common it is for victims and survivors to either not report sexual violence or not report immediately
- the freeze response
- the impact of trauma on victims’ and survivors’ memory and presentation.
ANROWS acknowledged that law reform has the potential to create unintended consequences. Our submission emphasised that these unintended consequences may be mitigated by accompanying law reform in this area with broader systemic reform, including education to prevent, respond to, and assist victims and survivors to recover from sexual violence.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2023). Re: Northern Territory Inquiry into consent for sexual offences [Submission]. ANROWS.