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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 1 November 2018) . . Page.. 4630 ..

them for working tirelessly to support survivors of sexual assault, to raise community awareness, deliver education programs and try to prevent further abuse from happening. Ultimately, that is my goal with this legislation.

The call from the community is very clear: consent should be free and voluntary, and that is what our law must say. I am very pleased that that was also the conclusion of the committee. Recommendation 4 states:

The Committee recommends that a definition of consent based on a concept of free and voluntary agreement, and affirmative and communicative consent be considered for enactment into ACT law.

Some people might ask: why is this important? When the #MeToo movement started, I, like many other people, put on Facebook that I was in this category, and asked my friends if it applied to them. Only one of them said that it did not. I actually found that that one woman was more surprising than the scores of people who said that they had been harassed. Sexual harassment has been so common in my life, and in my friends’ lives, that I assumed that it had been part of every woman’s life.

I have also been raped. I can say that, of course, it has affected my relationships with men for a very long time, not just in the immediate aftermath. One of the few pluses of getting older is that I now worry less about rape and sexual assault, as I am no longer a nubile young woman.

It is important to recognise that while women are most often the victims of male sexual harassment and assault, we, of course, are not the only victims. One of the things that the royal commission into sexual assault in institutions made clear was that there are a lot of male victims of sexual assaults. A clear definition of consent as free and voluntary agreement will help both genders, and, of course, those who do not identify as one of the binary genders. These are legislative changes that we should make for all people.

I do not want other people, young or old, of whatever gender, and of whatever social status, to feel the shame, sheer fear, lack of trust, contradictory feelings and stigma all too often associated with being a survivor of sexual assault. It is important to speak out about our experiences and show other people that they are not alone, we are not at fault and that they are believed. Related to this is the committee’s recommendation 8, which states:

The Committee recommends that, in conjunction with legislative change and amendment, that a complementary education program on consent be put in place. The Committee also recommends that such a campaign especially focus on young people.

Again, this is my view, and it was overwhelmingly the view of the community. We certainly need a lot more education on this. The law should set the standard. It is at the top of the pyramid. But we then need to teach particularly our young people—all of the community—about this standard and how, respectfully, it can be implemented and reached.

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