15 December 2022
In 2018, following five years of legal processes, including two trials and two appeals that ultimately acquitted a man accused of sexually assaulting her, Saxon waived her right to anonymity so that she could share her story on a Four Corner’s episode entitled ‘I am that girl’.
In the years since Saxon has spoken widely about her assault and her experience in accessing the NSW legal system. At our most recent She Leads In-Conversation, Saxon spoke with Katrina Marson about the ways she was separated from her own experiences by the criminal process and described how being labelled a ‘witness’ rather than a ‘victim’ led her to view the proceedings as not even her case.
By reclaiming ownership of her story, Saxon regained control over the narrative and has gone on to use her experiences to become an advocate for reform. She is vocal about all survivors who wish to do the same. Yet, she is critical of society’s reliance on survivors to recount their traumas as a precursor to change.
“There is power in getting up and telling your story, reclaiming your narrative and deciding for yourself how it is told. And there is also great pain. To make real change, we ask survivors to open their wounds, so we can see them bleed, to show us their deepest hurt again and again, so we know it’s real.”
Saxon going public with her story and experience with the justice system, prompted a review, conducted by the NSW Law Reform Commission, into how the NSW Crimes Act defined consent, the effectiveness of the model in prosecutorial outcomes, and court processes, including jury directions. As a result of this work, and the advocacy of victim-survivors like Saxon, the NSW Parliament progressed law reform and went on to implement an affirmative consent model.
The new “affirmative consent” model meant consent required communication between parties. And further to this, an accused’s belief that consent had been granted will not be deemed reasonable under the circumstances unless the accused did or said something to establish consent.
These are significant reforms.
They recognised that freezing in fear did not signal consent, and they addressed problematic deliberations as to whether an accused could have held a reasonable belief that consent had been granted in the circumstances.
Had these reforms been in place at the time of Saxon’s assault, they could have changed how her quest for justice ended.
Since the passing of the affirmative consent bill by NSW in November 2021, the ACT has passed its own law, and Victoria has committed to doing the same.
But Saxon has been emphatic in stating there is still a way to go – especially in the realms of deeper systemic and cultural change. She now works with RASARA to help prevent and respond to sexual violence by centring survivor experiences in the pursuit of fundamental changes to our justice systems, educational institutions, and community attitudes.
Recently, Saxon has also added her voice to the growing caucus of survivor advocates and Australians calling for reform to court procedures in sexual assault cases, especially where they involve children, via the ‘Justice Shouldn’t Hurt’ campaign. She was also awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2018 Young Persons’ Human Rights Medal in recognition of the system changes her advocacy has brought about.