A young woman’s story of how a man walked free after he was accused of raping her in a Kings Cross lane when she was an 18-year-old virgin shows there are “systemic issues” with sexual consent laws, NSW the government concedes.
Saxon Mullins, now 23, says she was raped by 21-year-old Luke Lazarus in an alleyway behind a popular nightclub in Sydney’s party district in 2013, on her first night out in the big smoke.
Over a five-year period, Ms Mullins endured two trials and two appeals with Mr Lazarus spending 11 months in jail after being convicted by a jury before eventually walking free after a second trial.
Ms Mullins shared her story on ABC’s Four Corners, prompting NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman to refer the state’s consent laws to the Law Reform Commission after questions were raised about their adequacy, fairness and clarity.
“(It’s) a concern that someone who has not consented can go through four court cases and not get a final resolution for the complaint,” Mr Speakman told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
There was a “systemic problem” with sexual assault reporting and convictions in NSW – with just 10 per cent of reported sexual assaults ending up with a conviction, he said.
“There is a reluctance by complainants to come forward … They’ve already been traumatised once, and they have to go through this retraumatisation yet again,” he said.
Ms Mullins, he said, was an “extraordinarily brave woman” and he hoped her story would encourage others to come forward.
The Minister for Sexual Assault Prevention Pru Goward said NSW laws needed to change so that consent was not assumed.
She added in situations similar to Ms Mullins’ women don’t say ‘no’ because of fear.
“You must explicitly ask for permission to have sex and if it’s not an enthusiastic ‘yes’ then it’s a ‘no’,” Ms Goward said.
“It is not enough to assume that because your victim did not say ‘no’ that she has, in fact, said ‘yes’.”
Ms Goward is calling for discussions in schools about what consent means and the importance of explicit conversations.
© AAP 2018