Mick Fuller: NSW Police Commissioner says society is able to keep women safe
Mick Fuller: NSW Police Commissioner says society is able to keep women safe

Society must force change to protect women: Fuller

If someone told me two years ago that we would have to sign in on our phones every time we sat down at a café or restaurant, I would have laughed at them.

The pandemic has shown us we can adapt our way of life to keep people safe and look after each other.

And so it is with sexual violence, particularly against women. We need to work ­together and make significant changes to make sure women can live their lives freely and safely.

Despite the best efforts of police, government and ­society, last year we received more than 15,000 reports of sexual assault. But men continue to get away with it - less than 2 per cent of reports lead to guilty verdicts in court.

 

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says sexual consent can change at any time. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Dallinger
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says sexual consent can change at any time. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Dallinger

 

We must move forward.

It's 2021, not 1961.

There was a time when a woman wearing a short skirt would be crucified in the witness box as "asking for it". Now some consider a woman impaired by alcohol or drugs has forfeited her right to be safe.

These attitudes endanger women. They can't be acc­epted in our society. Not on the street, not in our homes and not in the courtroom.

Consent can't be implied.

It is not given simply through the arrangement of a dinner through social media or a dating app.

Just because she came up to your apartment doesn't mean she wants to have sex or be ­intimate. Women are entitled to go out and have fun.

To socialise. To catch a ride-share or walk home safely.

 

Young people like Kate Pickard, Lauren McGrath-Wild and Sophie Bell (L-R) have grown up with dating apps. Picture: Toby Zerna
Young people like Kate Pickard, Lauren McGrath-Wild and Sophie Bell (L-R) have grown up with dating apps. Picture: Toby Zerna

 

Technology and the advent of dating apps bring their own challenges. Some members of the community harshly judge those who use these apps.

If they end up on a jury in a sexual assault matter, prose­cutions become even more ­difficult.

We need to continue to reshape the attitudes of men and the broader community too.

But that's not enough.

Positive consent has to be part of the way forward. In whatever form that might take.

We need a discussion about innovative solutions and how we can gauge positive consent.

Consent must be active and ongoing throughout a sexual encounter.

 

Some members of the community judge those who use these apps harshly.
Some members of the community judge those who use these apps harshly.

 

Just as we've had to check-in at the coffee shop to keep people safe, is there a way ­consent can be confirmed or documented?

People might think that sounds ridiculous but the idea we couldn't dance at weddings, stand in a pub or cross a state border also sounded ridiculous until the cost of inaction was considered.

The fact is, the lives of tens of thousands of women are being damaged and destroyed every year.

I'm certain of one thing; we can't continue to see only a tiny percentage of reported sexual assaults result in successful prosecution.

If a woman is brave enough to come forward, she deserves justice.

There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

Originally published as Society must force change to protect women: Fuller



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