In February, consent activist Chanel Contos, 23, posted a simple question to her Instagram Story: “Have you or has anyone close to you ever experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all-boys school?”, expecting a handful of responses. Within 24 hours, Contos received thousands of detailed testimonies from young women across the country. Over the next few weeks, Contos set up the ‘Teach Us Consent’ website, which houses more than 6,600 testimonies of sexual assault. Her petition for consent to be taught earlier in schools has gathered more than 43,000 signatures.
In March, both the Queensland and Victorian governments announced consent education would become mandatory in all government schools. Contos’ campaign also prompted a response from the Federal Government: you might remember the ‘milkshake consent video’ that was part of its Respect Matters program.
Next, Contos teamed up with the head of the NSW Police Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad, Stacey Maloney, to update the underused NSW Police Sexual Assault Reporting Option as part of “Operation Vest”. At the heart of the reforms is the ability for people to anonymously report assaults to the police without triggering a formal investigation, and for those reports to be corroborated by police if the individual is formally reported at another point in time.
Significantly, in May of this year, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced the Government’s plan to adopt an affirmative consent model – meaning consent has to be actively sought and actively communicated.
Just yesterday, Contos convened a roundtable with politicians, academics, survivors and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to discuss how respectful relationships, sex and consent education can be embedded in the Australian National Curriculum.