Sexual assault law reform Essay Example

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Sexual assault law reform 7

Sexual Assault Law Reform

1.0 Abstract

This study covers the legal and non-legal issues addressing sexual assault concerns. The legal issues covered are not a reflection of the Australian law on sexual assault in general but of the Victorian State. The study covers the latest amendments to the Acts governing sexual assault and the success of the amendments. The non-legal issues address the transition towards education of the public on sexual ethics and the effectiveness of the approach.


11.0 Abstract

32.0 Introduction

33.0 Legal issues in addressing sexual assault

54.0 Non-Legal issues in addressing sexual assault

65.0 Differing perspectives and Interpretations of the legal information and issues

66.0 Conclusion

7Works Cited

2.0 Introduction

Sexual assault is described as difficult to conclusively prosecute in court. 85% of sexual assault cases are not reported. In addition, the few that are reported do not undergo successful convictions. This is heightened by the minimal cases of reporting, weakening of the reported case through the various prosecution stages, ill treatment of the victims during trials both in court and at the police station, lack of trust on the female survivors by the courts, challenges in obtaining sufficient evidence such as DNA, and stereotype beliefs of sexual assault cases (Fileborn 1). The laws pertaining sexual assault in Australia also differ between different states. This paper explores the legal issues on sexual assault in the Victorian State and the effectiveness of the law. It also explores education on sexual ethics as a non-legal issue and its effectiveness.

3.0 Legal issues in addressing sexual assault

Following the issues raised in 2004 by the Victorian Law Reform Commission there have been several legislative amendments to laws surrounding the issue of sexual assault. Crime Acts 1958 amendments includes expanding the procurement of a child in indecent or sexual acts to cover telecommunication and the internet procurements, expand and clarifying sexual offences on persons with mental impairment by those taking care of them. It also includes hastening of reporting sexual offences cases by the juries and cases involving minors and mentally impaired persons to be heard within three months since reporting date, and amending the definition and scope of rape. The Criminal Trials Act 1999 was amended to include filing of presentments within seven days for cases involving minors and persons with mental impairment (“Sexual assault reform strategy” 10). The Evidence Act 1958 was amended to include prevention of victims or their families from cross examination of their sexual history in court, provide clear extent to which minors and mentally impaired persons can provide evidence, provide CCTV and screens access to adult victims, and remove non-partisan individuals from court proceedings involving persons with mental impairment and children. Also it allows hearsay evidence provision in cases involving children, pre-recording of the accused committal for sexual offences involving children or persons with mental impairment within three months at a special hearing. In addition it allows specialists to provide the court with evidence as to why children or mentally impaired persons may take longer to report sexual assault cases and the extent of their evidence through swearing. The Magistrates Court Act 1989 was also amended to establish a list of sexual offences, and also prevent cross examination of persons with mental impairment and children in hearing cases. More programs and initiatives have also been developed to address the same issues (“Sexual assault reform strategy” 11).

The law amendments and the overall judicial reforms above are shown to have significant success in issues concerning sexual assault. There is improved support and access for sexual assault victims when they report their cases to the policy and more units are involved in this such as Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams and Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Units. There is an increased chance of cross examination by women practitioners for sexual assault survivors. Furthermore, the assault survivors can avoid cross examination and get remote witness facilities access. Children are now accepted as witnesses in court and survivors are provided more support through the case proceedings. The Supreme Court is also involved in assault cases hearing and determination. Those victims who had prior cases before the amendments report improvement in how the cases are handled. 83% of them also express confidence in reporting cases to the police and 60% would follow through court proceedings (“sexual assault reform strategy” iii).

4.0 Non-Legal issues in addressing sexual assault

Further from the legal address of sexual assault, which more often is a reaction after the occurrence of a sexual assault, there are non-legal measures adapted by various groups and organizations to prevent the act through education. The education reforms are targeting young people in addressing sexual ethics in both attitudinal changes and skills development. It aims to make young people have a positive view towards sexual involvement where positive consent is emphasized. Traditionally people have held the view that females involve in sex by giving in to a males seduction but this education is aspiring to change that view to one where males are educated on ways to ask and receive voluntary consent from the females. Many of the young men tend to view lack of resistance from the female as a green light towards sexual engagement without care whether there is content or not. Some even find coerced sex more appealing. Such attitudes may later on lead to sexual assault and therefore it is imperative that the young men and women are taught on the importance of positive voluntary consent. Efforts towards such education are more focused on men for example Men Against Sexual Assault in the 1980s and 1990s and the White Ribbon Campaign. Such campaigns aim to engage men in challenging their views towards women and sexual assault, and behaviors that may lead to sexual violence. The white ribbon encourages men to wear white ribbons to show their stand against sexual violence. It has been successful in raising public awareness through media coverage and institutional support. However these programs have not been very successful in involving men. Men Against Sexual Assault is no longer existent and the recent White Ribbon Campaign has failed to garner sufficient support from the men. Men feel that these campaigns are promoting feminism that many men are against because it challenges male dominance in the society. Women too do not like the feminist tag and would rather gender equity (“Reflecting on sexual ethics”).

5.0 Differing perspectives and Interpretations of the legal information and issues

Sexual assault in the past was considered a property offence. A woman was considered as the husband’s or father’s property and thus assault was interpreted as an offence to either party. It was also seen to devalue a woman if she was raped prior to marriage. The woman’s consent for sex was not considered during a court case. This interpretation was abolished in 1980 with the marital rape immunity discarded. Also, women would only show consent to the defendant through a physical attack that resulted to injury otherwise it would not be used as evidence in court. Today verbalization of not consenting is considered but the victim ought to make it known to the defendant prior to the attack. In addition, currently there needs to be positive consent for sex by the woman. Giving in to sexual advances by the man is not considered consent as earlier believed (Fileborn 7).

6.0 Conclusion

The legal reforms made by the Victorian State against sexual assault have shown considerable success in changing attitudes of the victims towards reporting assault cases. There is now more confidence in the police and judicial system in addressing the issue without further victimization of the accuser. The consideration of children as witnesses in court is also a boost against sexual offences on minors. The non-legal issues pertaining education of the public especially young men on the importance of positive consent is a good measure towards curbing sexual assaults. Prevention is better than cure.

Works Cited

Fileborn, Bianca. “Sexual Assault Laws in Australia”. ACCSA Resource Sheet Feb. 2011:1-11.

King, Racheal. “Reflecting on Sexual Ethics and Sexual Assault Prevention Education.”

Australian Institute of Family Studies. Commonwealth of Australia, 2011. Web. 11 May 2013.

Victoria. Department of Justice. Sexual Assault Reform Strategy: Final Evaluation Report.

Carlton: Victoria, 2011. Print.