This submission addresses the importance of reducing the prevalence of sexual violence, and the challenges and limitations of the criminal justice system in achieving that end. It sets out the extensive changes that have been made in the Victorian criminal justice system to prosecute sexual offending, especially consent based sexual offences like sexual assault and rape. This submission also deals with recent legislative amendments in Victoria that implement a model of affirmative consent which have been opposed by Liberty Victoria.
Reducing the prevalence of sexual violence in society is an urgent priority. Educational campaigns on affirmative communication and sexuality are indispensable elements of a public campaign to promote healthy and respectful sexual relationships. Liberty Victoria is concerned that the current national discussion of the laws of consent and the need for criminal justice reform focusses disproportionately on adversarial and carceral means of reducing sexual violence. The capacity of the criminal justice system to affect social change is limited. Education must remain a priority and receive greater funding, especially with regard to young people who are learning about affirmative consent, boundaries, and healthy and respectful sexual relationships. In responding to sexual violence, any changes to the law should careful and evolutionary, and must not undermine fundamental safeguards for accused persons, including the presumption of innocence, the right to silence and the right to a fair trial.