Education the key to embedding respect in intimate relationships


The NSW Government education campaign on consent will do much to reinforce the importance of respect in intimate physical relationships. 

President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat has welcomed the education campaign but has restated concerns held by lawyers about the operation of consent reforms announced by the Government a year ago today.

“There’s no doubt Parliament’s intent in enacting these reforms is worthwhile, but the Law Society remains concerned that the new ‘affirmative consent’ model, may result in lengthier trials, more potential for appeals and retrials, or increased focus on the conduct of complainants during sexual assault trials,” Ms van der Plaat said.

Ms van der Plaat reinforced the importance of appropriate judicial and police training to ensure the reforms are carefully implemented, along with periodic review of the legislation.

“We welcome the requirement for the Attorney General to subject the reforms to statutory review, the first to commence no later than three and a half years from their commencement on 1 July,” Ms van der Plaat said.

It’s important that the community be assured that these provisions are operating without unintended consequences. The Law Society looks forward to participating in that review.

That said, the reforms have the potential to have echoes far beyond a courtroom or the new writing on pages of legislation.

“The Law Society has consistently supported better age-appropriate education about consent and sexual relationships in schools, universities, sports clubs and the wider community. The Government’s education campaign about consent launched today will help change societal attitudes, the culture about consent and dispel rape myths.”

Rape myths include the beliefs that;

•    Only strangers commit rape;
•    Victims will always try to fight off their attackers;
•    Victims will report rape immediately; and 
•    A victim’s dress and/or state of intoxication can indicate consent.
Ms van der Plaat acknowledged the advocacy of Saxon Mullins, whose experience brought to the fore the trauma faced by victim-survivors through the investigation and court process.