NSW's new affirmative sexual consent laws – what will change?

·News Editor
·3-min read

A change in sexual consent laws is set to come into effect in NSW, with authorities reminding people to be aware of the shift in expectations.

The change to the law was passed in state parliament in November 2021, in what was hailed as a massive step for victims of sexual assault.

From Wednesday, June 1 next week, affirmative sexual consent will be legally required in the state, and the government is rolling out a new ad campaign to show people what that looks like.

The ads show couples in various scenarios before one person stops and asks the other person what they want to do.

The new ad campaign is rolling out on social media and dating apps. Source: NSW Government
The new ad campaign is rolling out on social media and dating apps. Source: NSW Government

Sexual assault survivor Saxon Mullins, who was instrumental in the bill's delivery, said the change wasn't about putting more people in jail.

"Our goals are never to have more people put in prison. It is never to see more of these cases go through the courts. It is to stop sexual violence, and I think these campaign adverts really go the way in helping create that change and making sure education is understood," she told reporters on Wednesday.

"These are real people. These are real scenarios. These are real things that young people experience all the time."

Mr Mullins shared her story in an ABC Four Corners program which prompted a review of NSW consent laws in 2018.

What do the new NSW sexual consent laws mean?

Like the ads suggest, there will be an onus on participants to clarify consent.

Intoxication, unconsciousness, coercion and force are not forms of consent, and a defendant will no longer be able to argue they were under the impression consent had been given if they hadn't tried to find out.

"Consent can't be assumed from silence or inactivity," Attorney-General Mark Speakman said on Wednesday.

Mr Speakman insists the laws are common sense and not driven by any "woke" ideology.

But he said it was important to get the public on board.

"We can have all the laws in the world, but we have to bring the community along and make sure that everyone understands," Mr Speakman said.

Changing to an affirmative consent model addresses the "freeze" response.

According to Ms Mullins, the "freeze" response is a massively under-reported aspect of sexual violence.

"That is why you need to check in and need to have these conversations," she said.

Saxon Mullins told the story of her alleged rape as an 18-year-old virgin in a Sydney alleyway, becoming a catalyst for change. Source: AAP
Saxon Mullins told the story of her alleged rape as an 18-year-old virgin in a Sydney alleyway, becoming a catalyst for change. Source: AAP

Sexual Violence Prevention Minister Natalie Ward says young people want campaigns to be practical, simple and empowering.

"Obtaining consent is a very practical thing that can be done between two parties very simply," Ms Ward said.

The ads are running on social media to reach the youth they are targeting.

Ads targeting the 16-24 cohort will also be shown on dating apps such as Tinder, or else be restricted to users over 18 on other platforms.

with AAP

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