Understanding the Law’s Boundaries, and Yours
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.
The ARS team collectively decided that this topic is greatly important. As such, we’ve decided to centre our first theme around sexual violence and assault. A set of 6 articles aims to clearly outline the laws and perspectives regarding sexual crimes and provide relevant legal resources.
The issue of sexual abuse is inextricably linked with one’s mental health. Through busting some common misconceptions regarding consent, we hope to foster an environment within the community where everyone is confident about their rights and prioritises their wellbeing.
The Importance of Understanding Consent
There are many different legal definitions of consent depending on the jurisdiction, which gives rise to common misconceptions and misunderstandings of what constitutes consent. In Victoria, the legal definition is found in section 36 of the Crimes Act 1958.
The most important takeaways on the matter:
Consent means free agreement – it can be taken away at any time.
There are a number of circumstances in which a person can’t give consent. This is why knowing the law is so important; it can help you identify instances where consent wasn’t and/or can’t be given. For example, where intoxication or social pressures are involved, consent cannot be given.
The list of circumstances where a person cannot consent is not exhaustive – those affected should not assume their circumstances or their feelings are invalid just because it isn’t seen in this finite list.
If you have experienced sexual assault, know that you did nothing wrong and that it’s not your fault. Unfortunately, this experience is all too common, with ⅓ women and ⅙ men being sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. Feeling guilt and shame while minimising what has happened is just one common reaction to sexual assault. However, if this is not your experience, know that there is no right or wrong way to respond to sexual assault.
Identifying your thoughts and feelings and knowing that it’s part of a trauma response can help separate yourself from your emotions. While all of your feelings are completely valid, you are not your feelings.
What you decide to do is in your control. Although it may feel like it, you are not alone and support is always available. Talking to a mental health professional can help alleviate some of the stress regarding what to do next. You deserve to be supported, heard and understood.
We intend for this article to be nothing but informative and respectful towards anyone who has been affected by sexual violence. The ARS team is always open to feedback, so please reach out if this article raises any concerns using the details on our contact page.