Concern about rape sentence message
WE refer to His Honour Justice Geason’s comments on passing sentence and your report “Short jail term for rape” ( Mercury, October 23). As services working with women who experience sexual assault we were concerned that this sentence sends the wrong message to our community about rape. First and foremost, it is important for us all to remember that it is not the absence of ‘no’ but the presence of ‘yes’ that is consent. Consent is more than silence. Consent needs to be explicitly given by both parties. Youth and intoxication are not excuses that explain or justify rape. Legally you do not have consent if the other person is intoxicated. We cannot minimise a person’s unlawful actions leading to rape by suggesting it is their youth and their belief of consent when there was no ‘yes’ and the woman was drunk.
As services working with women who have been sexually assaulted, we hold concerns over language which minimise behaviour. For example, “you placed your hand over the complainant’s mouth during the conduct … it was of a short duration”. Placing a hand over the victim’s mouth to silence them, so others are not alerted to the act, should be considered an aggravating feature. This is an act intended to silence the victim. In short, we need to stop minimising violent abusive behaviours by suggesting ‘it could have been worse’. Rape is rape.