Con­cern about rape sen­tence mes­sage

Mercury (Hobart) - - LETTERS - Yvette Ce­htel, Women’s Le­gal Ser­vice Tas­ma­nia Jill Maxwell, Sex­ual As­sault Sup­port Ser­vice

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.

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