Whether an indecent assault or rape occurred in Victoria must be evaluated according to the evidence in each case
Are Victorians “turning a blind eye” to rape, indecent assault, and other crimes committed against women? A news headline bases that assertion on a report by VicHealth. The report found that 40 percent of people surveyed believe that women sometimes make false claims of rape. According to VicHealth, attitudes in Victoria mirror those in other parts of Australia.
The CEO of VicHealth refers to the survey results as “blaming the victim.” A commentary on the report suggests that these are “heinous views” that “endorse attitudes that are supportive of violence against women.”
No reasonable person condones rape or supports any form of violence against women. Victorians understand, however, that false allegations do occur. Pretending that men are never falsely accused of sexual assault is just as “heinous” as pretending that women are never raped.
Rape and indecent assault in Victoria
- The law of Victoria provides that rape can be committed in several ways. They include:
- intentionally penetrating another person sexually without that person’s consent and with awareness of or indifference to the absence of consent;
- failing to withdraw after becoming aware that consent to sexual penetration is not being given;
- compelling another person to commit sexual penetration.
“Sexual penetration” refers to any penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth by any body part.
The offence of indecent assault is committed by touching another person indecently while knowing that the person did not consent to be touched in that way or without giving the question of consent any thought. Touching is generally regarded as indecent if the touching involves genitalia or a woman’s breasts.
The question of consent
Whether a person consented to penetration or sexual touching is often the key issue in a criminal prosecution for rape or indecent assault. Consent means free agreement. Lack of consent is obvious in some cases. In many others, however, a guilty verdict will often hinge upon whether jurors believe the alleged victim is telling the truth when she testifies that she did not consent.
It is an unfortunate fact that some people who consent to sexual penetration or touching later claim that they did not consent. That is particularly likely to happen if they feel ashamed or embarrassed, if they fear that parents or friends will judge them harshly, or if they worry that a spouse or boyfriend will learn of their infidelity. In those cases, the false assertion that “I did not consent” or “I was too drunk to consent” may be meant to save face. In other cases, a false accusation may arise from a desire to seek revenge against the accused.
Keeping an open mind
When jurors consider allegations of rape or indecent assault, they must decide whether an alleged victim did or did not consent. If there is a reasonable doubt, they must find the accused “not guilty” to avoid basing a criminal conviction upon a false accusation. Jurors cannot and should not presume that all people who claim to be crime victims are telling the truth.
Recognizing that some claims of rape are false is not “turning a blind eye” to the problem of violence against women. To assume that every criminal accusation is true would turn a blind eye to need to protect the innocent from unjust convictions. Criminal defense lawyers, like the Victorians who responded to the VicHealth survey, understand the importance of keeping an open mind while assessing the evidence that supports or refutes an accusation of rape.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.