A Question of Consent

Earlier this month, a young woman named Saxon Mullins shared her story for the first time with the broadcaster’s Four Corners program.

Her case is deeply disturbing and pushes most of us to ask some tough questions about the notion of consent. The facts of the case, undisputed by both parties, are distressing. Luke Lazarus took the then 18-year-old Ms Mullins to an alley behind a Kings Cross nightclub where he had anal sex with her.

It’s a deeply disturbing case and Saxon Mullins showed enormous courage in sharing her story. Importantly, by giving up her right to anonymity and speaking to Four Corners, she has shone a light on some profound flaws both in our legal system and in the behaviours and attitudes displayed by many young men about sex and women.

If there’s anything we can learn from this case that altered the course of a young woman’s life, it’s that we have so much more to do when it comes to teaching young men about sex, consent and basic respect.

For far too long, both legally and socially, the burden has been on the rape or assault victim to prove they did not consent, or that they fought back, not on the perpetrator to show that they at least asked for consent. The five-year-long legal battle has now concluded, but with no finality for any of those involved. Although a jury and two judges found that Saxon Mullins did not consent to sex, there is a grey area in the law over whether this was clear enough to Mr Lazarus.

Although there have been further legal arguments, and significant criticism of the appeal judgment, there will be no more trials. But as a direct result of Saxon Mullins speaking out, there will be a much-needed review of the law around consent. The NSW Government has announced it will refer the state’s consent laws to the Law Reform Commission

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