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Humans of Monash Law: How does the law handle sexual assualt? Comments from Amy Hale.

Trigger warnings: Sexual assault, rape, alcohol/drugs.

If this article causes any negative reactions, please reach out for support by contacting a professional, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

“I think the law, being deeply patriarchal, will never fully accommodate for the diverse ways that sexual violence manifests in society. There is only ever justice for the “ideal victim”, which means that a lot of sexual violence is overlooked, especially in the home.

Happily, I think this is changing. Even having a look at how the definition of consent has changed has been heartening; now it’s an ‘enthusiastic yes’ rather than ‘not a no’. Dedicated feminist work to unpick hundreds of years of patriarchal prejudice and to educate about consent is still sorely needed in the law. After learning about consent during Criminal Law A, I know a lot of women who had learnt that their past experiences had in fact not been consensual, when previously it might’ve been written off as an unfortunate hook-up. It’s confronting when told in a lecture scenario that what was experienced was actually assault or rape. Something as small as trigger warnings on lecture slides or more empathetic language could make a difference. This topic is taught in a really cold and calculating way, when it needs to be, well, human.

There should also be advertised counselling at the end of each lecture, and dedicated follow-ups with students. However, I have heard that Monash counselling has a massive wait-list and it is often difficult to get on it. I think people eschew using Monash resources because it’s daunting to have to launch formal complaints, so survivors resort to informal, inclusive communities of women, often online. I think Monash sexual violence resources should reflect this; in being a community of women who work holistically and dedicatedly in the intersection between psychology and the law to help survivors know their legal options, and where to seek mental health support.

Sexual violence has not impacted me personally. However, in particularly the legal community, perpetrators have a uniquely disturbing, less overt way of manipulating victims. Their language of subtle coercion entrances victims and often leads one to do things they wouldn’t normally do if they hadn’t been duped by this seemingly sensitive, literary man.

The issue is that a woman will emerge from these encounters and never quite know what happened, except that she felt uncomfortable. It’s a well-worn trope, and it impacts people’s social and professional lives. There are men in the Monash Law community with whom I wouldn’t be able to do a group assignment with based on how they’ve treated my friends, and this affects my legal studies undoubtedly.

In the law, you’re taught to find loopholes and I think this is the law-student loophole; how to, with language, avoid responsibility for treating women badly.

Written by Amy Hale

Amy is a Third-Year Arts/Law Student at Monash University and a Legal Research Assistant.

Amy is very passionate about feminism, safety for women and demonstrates that through her work.

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