The South Western Centre Against Sexual Assault has welcomed affirmative sexual consent laws set to be introduced in Victoria.
Under proposed changes to the law announced last week, people will have to make sure their sexual partners are consenting or risk committing a crime.
South Western Centre Against Sexual Assault (SWCASA) manager Mary Clapham welcomed the changes.
"This corrects the long standing but misplaced legal onus of victim/survivors of sexual assault needing to demonstrate that they did not consent, rather than the accused person needing to evidence that they had received clear and unmitigated consent," she said.
"This is a very significant and welcome change."
The government will also amend laws to make it explicit that stealthing - the removal of a condom or other protection during sex without the other person's knowledge or consent - is a crime.
The VLRC's report, titled Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences, found that sexual violence is widespread, causes serious harm and is significantly under-reported.
Even when reports are made, many cases don't make it to court - and few that do result in a conviction.
Ms Clapham said it was well-researched that many sexual assault victim-survivors were retraumatised through the court system and processes.
"While changes have occurred over the past 10 years to improve the system, as per the list of recommendations from VCLR's report, there is still significant scope to change many current aspects to improve the court experience for a victim-survivor," she said.
"The planned legislative changes (affirmative consent and stealthing) and implementation of other report recommendations may in turn influence an increase in the reporting of sexual assault crimes and contribute to a higher level of satisfaction with the criminal outcomes".
The amendments will be introduced in 2022 and were recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC).
In the meantime, the government will consult extensively with victims, law enforcement agencies, the courts and other stakeholders in developing legislation.
As part of the initial response, a $5.2 million funding boost will be provided to specialist sexual assault services, to help respond to increasing reporting and demand.
Ms Clapham it was anticipated that SWCASA would receive some of the funding.
"This funding will assist SWCASA to meet the expected surge in demand for adults, young people, children and their non-offending family members across the south-west," she said.
For all referrals to SWCASA, contact 5564 4144.
An after-hours service can be provided for people who have experienced a recent sexual assault by phoning the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
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