Anti-violence groups have the solutions to protect women, and they don't include an app
19 March 2021 at 4:58 pm
Advocates say it’s critical that government seeks advice from the right places and the right people
Women’s anti-violence experts say it’s time for government to “go back to the drawing board” and listen carefully to evidence-based solutions already available if it is to combat sexual violence and support survivors.
It comes after New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller copped widespread criticism for suggesting the use of an app to record sexual consent.
A number of advocates and community organisations said abusers could coerce a victim to use the app, and that it could offer perpetrators of sexual assault protection in a court room.
Defending the proposal, Fuller said on ABC Radio Sydney that the app wasn’t about how it worked in the justice system, because it would be designed to “keep people out of the justice system”.
But Hayley Foster, the CEO of Women’s Safety NSW, told Pro Bono News that with 98.5 per cent of sexual predators considered innocent in the eyes of the law, the issue of access to justice was what needed to be dealt with.
“We are essentially giving perpetrators the green light to offend and this needs to change,” Foster said.
“We have been advising government departments, for a very long time around what is needed to increase access to justice and increase safety. We would now like them to go back to the drawing board and take all the advice that we’re giving them.”
She said that introducing immediate reforms like affirmative consent laws, procedural changes to allow evidence of past conduct, allowing victims to pre-record evidence, jury directions to counter victim-blaming, and training of law enforcement, would see an immediate difference.
“We are calling on leaders to not discourage people from coming forward, but [to understand] why this is such a very traumatising and unsafe process to go through,” she said.
“We need to make sure that we remove those barriers, that we improve the systems because victims of sexual assault should be entitled to justice just like anyone else.”
Positive steps forward
Foster said that while these solutions were not new and had been put to government many times before, with discussions around sexual assault currently centre stage, there was now a compelling reason for political leaders to respond.
“It’s definitely [different] this time around,” she said.
“And we’ll continue to tell them the stories and provide women the opportunity themselves to tell their stories about what it’s like, why they didn’t access the criminal justice system, and how that process has impacted upon them.”
If you, or someone you know is experiencingor at risk of sexual assault, please call 1800 RESPECT.