Kara FVS news
October 12, 2022

Geraldine Bilston: Better access to justice for victim-survivors

12 October 2022

Geraldine Bilston, victim-survivor of intimate partner violence and Kara FVS board member, shares her reflections on recent advancements in victim-survivors’ access to justice.

In August, affirmative consent laws were passed in state parliament in Victoria. This significant reform propels the rights of victims of sexual violence. Reflecting our experiences in legislation is a sign of respect, and this change provides an essential step forward in our society shifting the scrutiny of behaviours from victims to perpetrators.  

Affirmative consent means consent can no longer be presumed, it must be actively sought, and it must be clear and enthusiastic. This change also means that consent can be withdrawn and cannot be given freely if in fear or threat
of family violence.  

For many victim-survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault intersects with their perpetrator’s other controlling and violent behaviours. Sexual coercion occurs when a person is threatened, tricked, forced, or pressured into unwanted sexual activity. Sexual coercion is a prominent feature of long-term abusive relationships, providing perpetrators a way to continue to cause fear and erode their victim’s sense of self. There cannot be consent where there is coercion, and severe harm occurs when psychological abuse intersects with a person’s sexual autonomy.  

Our understanding of family violence, and coercive and controlling behaviours, must include how sexual assault and sexual coercion can form part of a pattern of abuse used by perpetrators to abuse, violate
and control their victims.

I am proud to have been part of the National Coercive Control Advisory group. The group contributed to the development of national principles to address coercive control. There are 8 draft principles that focus on:

>  Common features and impacts of coercive control
>  Community understanding of coercive control
>  Effects of discrimination and inequality
>  Listening to and working with victim-survivors of family and domestic violence
>  Coordinated approaches to addressing coercive control
>  Criminalisation of coercive control, including any potential unintended consequences.

You can contribute to a shared national understanding of coercive control by providing your feedback on the consultation draft of the national principles to address coercive control. The consultation process closes on Friday 11th
November 2022.

To access the draft National Principles and respond to the survey, visit:  https://consultations.ag.gov.au/families-and-marriage/coercive-control/

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