Authors: Lisa G. Coates, Centre for Law & Justice, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia.

Abstract

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The #MeToo movement has arguably impacted on every corner of the globe with regards to interrogating the issue of bodily autonomy and safe sexual space.  This article examines the intersection between the current NSW Law Reform Commission on Consent in relation to Sexual Offences against the cultural context of the #MeToo movement.  The precipitating event for the Commission was the R v Lazarus case and an ABC Four Corners interview conducted with the complainant.  The case resulted in two Court of Criminal Appeals with arguably no ultimate outcome.  The machinery of the current sexual assault provisions in NSW are analysed through feminist critical theory.  This article maintains a specific focus on affective solidarity, rape myth acceptance and Just World Belief in the context of networked affect.  The utility of the existing NSW legislative provisions is presented as contentious.  Firstly, the law presupposes an equal power dynamic between the parties.  Secondly, because the burden of proof is with the prosecution to prove that sexual intercourse occurred without consent.  The focus, as played out in the Lazarus case, is on the level of communication between the complainant and accused, and whether this gave rise to a reasonable belief in the accused’s mind that there was consent.  The study concludes by focusing on the challenges faced by legislators in considering statutory reform in the context of the #MeToo movement.

Keywords: Sexual consent, Criminal law reform, Affective solidarity, Rape myth acceptance, Just World Belief, Networked affect.

Vol. 1, Issue 2, 2020