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As the campaign began as an university assessment, the submission included an essay justifying the cause and approach. I have included some relevant extracts along with the accompanying infographics.

A Rationale

The prevalence of sexual assault (SA) is an issue that affects all members of society through direct victimisation and the peripheral consequences of an offence. Whilst SA can occur to anyone, women tend to be the most vulnerable.[1] Due to its focus on women, SA was historically overlooked as patriarchal ideologies fostered rape myths that label the victim at fault.[2] However, there has been a shift regarding social perspectives of SA and the ways it occurs.[3] Whilst perspectives have progressed past sexual assault being confined to forcible rape, there is still room for improvement. The prevalence of rape myths and associated narratives of what a victim should look like foster uneducated opinions and misinformation.[4] Due to widespread misinformation, one of the largest areas of underreported SA are cases involving intoxication of the victim.[5]

B Sexual Assault and Intoxication

SA is complex; therefore, it is important that all areas of SA are discussed. This is particularly important regarding SA where the victim was highly intoxicated. The discourse around SA is tainted with victim-blaming, misinformation, and the propagation of rape myths. SA occurs in a variety of ways that all rest on the lack of consent during a sexual act. Sensationalised narratives and media often portray SA solely as forcible rape as it an easily digestible idea that being physically forced to do something that you are fighting against is immoral. Audiences are less likely to respond to covert forms of abuse and coercion as it relies on a more nuanced understanding of consent.[6] Due to this representation, many people are not as educated regarding other forms of SA that involve manipulation, deceit, and taking advantage of someone who is impaired. This lack of recognition is exacerbated as the complexity of experiences are negatively correlated with their believability; complex stories are less likely to be recognised as SA.[7] A large factor that influences the recognition of SA is the presence of alcohol in the victim.[8] Scientific evidence illustrates that the brain cannot function properly when it is exposed to elevated levels of intoxication.[9] Alcohol can lead to temporary impairment of the brain's functioning which affects a person's ability to critically think and effectively communicate, as well as lowering a person's inhibitions.[10] When in a highly-intoxicated state, the ability to consent is removed.[11] Safe practice of sexual activities involves ongoing consent that is given in a safe space with adequate understanding of the activity, and the person(s) involved.[12] However, people may manipulate this temporary impairment to coerce a person into sexual acts that they would not agree to when sober. This narrative is not as easy to digest as it is more complex and often labelled as ambiguous.[13] Differences in the effects of SA on intoxicated and non-intoxicated victims are slight and require more support and understanding to bridge the knowledge gap.[14] Consequently, there is a lack of representation and understanding of how intoxication impairs the ability to consent, therefore leading to acts of SA.

C Campus Cases

The issue of intoxicated impairment and the inability to consent is prevalent concerning University campuses. The culture of drinking and partying that university social groups foster introduces an augmented idea of what is normal and what is not.[15] A study reported a correlation between women with sorority friends who peer-pressured them into sexual encounters and an increased risk of SA under intoxication.[16] Reports of increased vulnerability to SA from people on college campuses are substantiated by the groups of people that sorority women encounter and the beliefs of those people.[17] These perpetuated ideas of normality create a barrier against reconstructing the understanding of sexual consent. Consequently, university campuses have high rates of reported incidents but many of these often fall under the guise of being too complicated or not serious enough.[18] This is a direct consequence of misinformation of SA. The complications involved with intoxicated 'consent' and SA is the results of 'law neutrality' fostering an inequality of victims where the legislation itself is not biased; however, the way it is enacted causes an overrepresentation of a minority group.


A Legislative Gap

Legislation is vital to the accessibility of justice by the public. Whilst common law can foster precedent, case law is not an easily accessible route for the public.[19] The hesitancy to discuss SA predisposes victims to barriers that are unique to the crime. SA cases involving intoxication encounter further barriers to the validity of a victim and the credibility of their story.[20] Therefore, it is integral that the information people can access independently of counsel, such as legislation, should encompass the circumstances of intoxicated SA. As the majority of people in Australia have access to justice regarding non-consent as a result of intoxication, it is incomprehensible that WA continues to allow this gap in legislation to exist.

B Amending the Code

SA has pre-existing law in the WA Criminal Code act, therefore, the best way to approach the integration of an intoxication-consent clause is to create an amendment to the legislation. The perpetuation of rape myths is one of the largest reasons that cases are underreported, and the stigma associated with intoxication and assault are perpetuated by WA's lack of acknowledgement in its legislation.[21] This legislative issue is further highlighted by the existing use of judicial discretion to recognise that highly intoxicated people may not be able to consent. The lack of legislation does not mean that intoxication cannot be considered when determining consent in SA cases; however, it is not enough to rely on judges to foster this understanding as the perpetuation of rape myth is still occurring. Whilst the ability of justices to demonstrate judicial activism provides discretion to SA cases involving intoxicated non-consent, legislation needs to fulfil its role of providing statute that exists outside of judicial discretion. A case that illustrated acknowledgement of intoxicated non-consent is Alizada v The State of Western Australia [2021] WASCA 18, where the vulnerability of the victim was taken into consideration on the premise of her intoxication.[22] This provides a form of precedent for common-law and allows future judges to employ judicial activism to provide justice to victims. However, relying on common law alone risks invalidating the experiences of people who are unable to access case law, as well as relying on the ability of a case to pass through the first few stages of the criminal justice system which may not be as advocating as justices. WA needs to amend its criminal code to provide SA victims with the justice they deserve.


Advocating for the rights of SA victims is crucial to deconstructing the systemic victimisation of women – specifically feminine university students. WA has a legislative gap that does not acknowledge how extreme levels of intoxication negate a person's ability to consent; it is the only state in Australia to lack a clause regarding intoxicated non-consent. The science concerning intoxicated non-consent already exists. As the foundational information and structure is already present, the only thing left is to advocate for the inclusion of intoxicated non-consent. By using a twitter campaign with infographics that humanise the approach in a safe and supportive manner, the chances of the information reaching members of state parliament increases. By bringing forward this issue on a public platform there is an increased sense of public viewing that positions parliament members to respond in a socially favourable way. By having the foundational elements pre-existing and the rest of Australia's state laws as comparisons there is no excuse to ignore the evidence. Consequently, this advocacy campaign is targeted to reach state parliament to provide protection to all of WA – particularly feminine students. SA is an offence that has enduring repercussions on victims; WA needs to provide legislation to protect its people from this.

[1] Denise A Hines et al, ‘Gender Differences in Sexual Assault Victimization Among College Students’ (2012) 27(6) Violence and victims 922.
[2] Rebecca M Hayes, Rebecca L Abbott and Savannah Cook, ‘It’s Her Fault: Student Acceptance of Rape Myths On Two College Campuses’ (2016) 22(13) Violence against women 1540.
[3] Australia Talks: This Evidence Tonight of a Major Shift in Public Opinion About Sexual Assault (ABC TV WA, 2021).
[4] Olivia Smith and Tina Skinner, ‘How Rape Myths Are Used and Challenged in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials’ (2017) 26(4) Social & legal studies 441.
[5] Zachary W Taylor, ‘Unreadable and Underreported: Can College Students Comprehend How to Report Sexual Assault?’ (2018) 59(2) Journal of college student development 248.
[6] Rachel M Venema, ‘Police Officer Schema of Sexual Assault Reports: Real Rape, Ambiguous Cases, and False Reports’ (2016) 31(5) Journal of interpersonal violence 872.
[7] See ibid.
[8] Berit Schei et al, ‘Adult Victims of Sexual Assault: Acute Medical Response and Police Reporting Among Women Consulting a Center for Victims of Sexual Assault’ (2003) 82(8) Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica 750.
[9] Lambert Ribordy, Farfalla et al, ‘Acute Alcohol Intoxication and Expectations Reshape the Spatiotemporal Functional Architecture of Executive Control’ (2020) 215 NeuroImage (Orlando, Fla.) 116811.
[10] See ibid.
[11] Sarah Croskery-Hewitt, ‘Rethinking Sexual Consent : Voluntary Intoxication and Affirmative Consent to Sex’ (2015) 26(3) New Zealand universities law review 614.
[12] Meghan A Cook and L. Wynn, ‘“Safe Sex”: Evaluation of Sex Education and Sexual Risk by Young Adults in Sydney’ [2020] Culture, health & sexuality 1.
[13] Venema (n 6).
[14] Helene Flood Aakvaag, Ida Frugård Strøm and Siri Thoresen, ‘But Were You Drunk? Intoxication During Sexual Assault in Norway’ (2018) 9(1) European journal of psychotraumatology 1539059.
[15] Adrienne P Henry, et al, ‘Reflecting the Times? Reexamining the Effect of Alcohol Intoxication on Perceptions of Campus Sexual Assault’ [2021] Violence against women 10778012211005559.
[16] Cortney A Franklin and Tasha A Menaker, ‘Feminist Routine Activity Theory and Sexual Assault Victimization: Estimating Risk by Perpetrator Tactic Among Sorority Women’ (2018) 13(2) Victims & offenders 158.
[17] See ibid.
[18] Kathryn J Holland, Lilia M Cortina and Jennifer J Freyd, ‘Compelled Disclosure of College Sexual Assault’ (2018) 73(3) The American psychologist 256.
[19] Jon Khan, ‘“The Life of a Reserve”: How Might We Improve the Structure, Content, Accessibility, Length & Timeliness of Judicial Decisions?’ (ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2019).
[20] Venema (n 6).
[21] Jane Goodman-Delahunty and Kelly Graham, ‘The Influence of Victim Intoxication and Victim Attire on Police Responses to Sexual Assault’ (2011) 8(1) Journal of investigative psychology and offender profiling 22.
[22] Alizada v The State of Western Australia [2021] WASCA 18.

The following infographics were based on a government-published table that indicated WA as being the only jurisdiction that fails to acknowledge how intoxication affects consent. However, this issue is also found in the Queensland Criminal Code. 

Click the link to see the table.

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