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Founder's Weekly 26th Nov 2021: What the new sexual consent laws mean for women; plus 20 signs you’re being financially abused

Landmark new laws in NSW have changed the legal definition of sexual consent in NSW - here’s what you need to know.

Fellow remarkable community,

Today is Economic Awareness Day, which aims to highlight the least understood form of domestic and family violence: economic abuse.

One of the reasons I launched The Remarkable Woman was to help empower women to be financially independent. It comes from a very personal place for me - it was a life raft in helping me leave an early adult marriage. 

The experience gave me a first-hand understanding of the importance of personal, professional and financial independence for women. It’s that passion that drives me every day.

Read on to learn the 20 signs you may be the victim of financial abuse and what you can do about it. We also have the lowdown on long-overdue changes to sexual consent laws in Australia, plus how NSW’s first female police commissioner plans to use her role to fight for further change. 

What the new sexual consent laws mean for women

New consent laws introduced in NSW this week mean people who plan to have sex will need to take active steps to make sure the other person is on board.

“It does not require a written agreement or script, or stifle spontaneity,“ NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman explained.

“It's a matter of common sense and respect,” Speakman added. “Under our reforms, if you want to engage in sexual activity with someone, then you need to do or say something to find out if they want to have sex with you too. It's that simple.”

The change will mean a person who does and says nothing – for example if they “freeze” due to fear – does not consent to sex.

The laws will also affirm a person’s right to withdraw consent at any point; make clear that if someone consents to one sexual act, it doesn’t mean they’ve consented to other sexual acts; clarify the definitions of “sexual intercourse”, “sexual touching” and “sexual act”; and clarify that a defendant cannot rely on self-induced intoxication to show they were mistaken about consent.

Speakman commended Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy director of advocacy Saxon Mullins for her extraordinary bravery in sharing her lived experience and tireless advocacy for victim-survivors to ensure their voices were heard.

Mullins fought a court suppression order to speak about her own experiences as a survivor on the ABC's Four Corners program in 2018. Within 24 hours of sharing her story, Speakman sought a review, which led to the changes being passed in parliament on Tuesday.

Mullins tweeted after the law passed: “Every survivor and expert who helped this through changed the world today. Not sure if I want to cry, dance, or drink champagne. Think I’m going to do a combination of all three,” she said.

Judges, legal practitioners and police will receive targeted education programs on the new legislation before it comes into effect mid-next year.

There will also be new directions for juries to address common misconceptions in sexual assault cases, community awareness campaigns, and research into the experiences survivors have had dealing with the criminal justice process.

The Remarkable Woman stands with Saxon and clinks a glass to her bravery and tireless advocacy.  

These laws couldn’t come at a more crucial time, with sexual assault being the only crime that is on the rise in NSW, according to the latest quarterly crime report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Sexual assault cases have soared by 21% in the 24 months to June, while all other crime categories either went down or were stable. Additionally, the rate of conviction for sexual assault is shockingly low, with only 19% of incidents reported to NSW police in 2019 leading to charges.

I truly hope these new laws allow women to feel more confident in reporting sexual assault in the assurance that action will be taken. Re-educating society and redefining the misconceptions of sexual assault on a social, political and legal level is another step forward to a more equal world and that makes me optimistic for the safety and equality of women in NSW. Now, we just need to see this snowball on a much larger scale here in Australia and the rest of our global societies. 

The invisible abuse driving women into poverty

Australia has joined with Canada, England and New Zealand for the first time to mark Economic Awareness Day.

Held on November 26, it aims to highlight the least understood form of domestic and family violence (DFV): economic abuse.

One of my most impassioned platforms at The Remarkable Woman is helping women to make better financial decisions. Knowledge is power! So when it comes to financial wisdom, one of my mottos is that you should always be self-educated on managing/understanding your own finances before delegating that access to someone else; no matter how much you trust them or how much you feel obligated in allowing them to control that aspect of your life. 

A survey released by the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety (CWES) has revealed 16% of respondents had experienced economic abuse from an intimate partner and more than 70% of people who had experienced other forms of intimate partner violence (IPV), also experienced economic abuse. Women are disproportionately the victims of intimate partner violence and economic abuse.

“Our research shows people are less confident to explain economic abuse compared to physical, sexual, emotional or psychological violence and don’t have a good grasp of how economic abuse works,” said Rebecca Glenn, the founder of the Centre.

 “These findings highlight why it’s so important the next National Action Plan to Eliminate Violence and Women and Their Children includes a focus on economic abuse and supporting economic safety.

“We know from previous research that more than 60% of women in high financial stress in this country have a history of economic abuse and that a lack of financial means is a key reason women stay with, or return to abusive partners, when they don’t otherwise want to.

“We also know that the fastest growing rate of homelessness is among older women and that intimate partner violence is a key contributor to this statistic. It’s therefore imperative that women’s economic safety is designed into our response to domestic and family violence.”

Economic abuse in the context of IPV is behaviour used to control a partner by restricting or exploiting their economic resources, such as money, food, transport, and housing, in a way that threatens their economic security and constricts their autonomy. It is usually part of a broader pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour that limits a victim’s options.

If you feel pressured by someone about a financial decision, ask yourself why and get a second opinion. Regularly check on the status of your money and never allow yourself to lose access to it.  

Still unsure about what financial/economic abuse may look or feel like?

Here’s 20 signs you need to watch out for:

1. They have hidden financial information from you

2. Spent their money however they wanted while your money went to pay for necessities

3. Made you ask them for money

4. Decided how you could spend money rather than letting you spend it how you saw fit

5. Made you use your money to buy them things or pay their bills when you didn’t want to

6. Damaged or destroyed your belongings

7. Hid money so you could not find it

8. Put bills in your name, leaving you to pay them

9. Stole your belongings

10. Demanded you give them receipts or change when you spent money

11. Kept you from having a job, or going to work or study

12. Kept you from having the money you needed to buy food, clothes, or other necessities

13. Forced or pressured you to give them your savings or other assets

14. Made you take out a loan or buy something on credit when you didn’t want to

15. Took out a loan or bought something on credit in your name without your permission

16. Made you work in the family business without pay or meeting legal employment conditions

17. Forced you to claim government payments you were not entitled to

18. Made you sign business documents that were represented as something else, or that you didn’t understand or agree with

19. Made demands of your family for further, and/or exorbitant, dowry payments.

20. Forced you to apply for early access to your superannuation under the COVID-19 early release scheme

No one should ever be subject to any kind of abuse, especially one that restricts your economic and financial resources to live a full life. Having experienced this myself, I made a point to create a series of video resources for The Remarkable Woman’s Signature Members to help them identify financial abuse, understand it and know how to take action if they ever find themselves or their loved ones in the situation where they are enduring it. 

If you’re a member, watch the ‘Managing Money and Relationships’ series here and if you’re not yet a member, let’s get you signed up and back in control of your financial and personal well being here

As always, if you or anyone you know is experiencing any kind of abuse, please contact 1800RESPECT or 000 in an emergency. Help is always available and you are never alone. 

Why 38% of women in tech are leaving their job within the next 2 years

Despite a global shortage of tech workers and countless initiatives to encourage more women into the sector, a huge number of females in STEM are preparing to leave the industry.

Why? A combination of continued gender bias and a heavier workload during COVID-19.

A recent report from New View Strategies found 38% of the respondents have witnessed gender bias at their workplace, with 38% also saying that men are assumed to be more capable than women in their tech-based workplace. Not only are women experiencing or witnessing gender bias, but almost half (46%) say their organisations are not actively prioritising gender equality within their hiring or culture.

43% of survey respondents also believe there is a gender pay gap at their workplace.

They have also found that remote working has led to new forms of gender bias. One in 10 women are experiencing virtual or email-based gender-based harassment and 70% said they prefer having their camera off during video calls.

52% of women in the tech field said their workload has increased since the start of the pandemic, and about a quarter (27%) now find themselves less optimistic about their career.

Access to tools for upward mobility was also a major issue for women in tech, as over half of the women surveyed (52%) said that the tech industry lacked opportunities for advancement. Other obstacles included a lack of female role models, mentorship, and training resources.

The results echo the findings of a recent survey by Professionals Australia that found women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and professional roles across Australia are underpaid, underrepresented and unsupported.

Among the university-qualified STEM workforce, the survey found women only represented 29%. A third of that figure, specifically those aged 25 to 35, reported that they had intended to leave their profession within five years.

It’s critical that we address the gender pay gap and the organisational factors behind the attrition of women from STEM fields and equitably build the STEM workforce for a progressive post-COVID future. Women should not be driven into shying away from the pursuit of their passions and aspirations. This is an issue in STEM that has gone on for long enough and it’s time to change that narrative.  

One in two men think they’re discrimination victims

The gender pay gap continues to widen in Australia, but new research shows 52% of corporate men feel they are the ones being discriminated against in the workplace.

A survey by The Dream Collective into the attitudes of 1000 Australian men has also found almost half of men (48%) are fatigued by gender equality and think women are being favoured for promotions and jobs on the basis of their gender. 

Breathe, Shivani, Breathe. Inhale for 2, exhale for “are you kidding me right now?!”...I mean, exhale for 4. Apparently the general female population must be imagining the upper hand men have had for hundreds of years and counting. 

The Dream Collective works with companies such as Coles, Amazon Web Services and Adobe to develop programs to hire and retain female employees.

Founder and director of The Dream Collective Sarah Liu told the Australian Financial Review the research pointed to a discrepancy between mens’ perception and reality.

For example, despite the fear of reverse discrimination, the survey found men do not think they are worse off at work, with 51% saying their opportunities for advancement remain the same as two years ago.

The results come at the same time as Australia’s gender gap widened by 0.08 percentage points in 2021. Meanwhile, the projected timeline to closing the gender gap globally has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.

That appalling discrepancy will continue if we don’t close that gap between male perception and reality. I agree with The Dream Collective – while it’s deeply frustrating that so many men feel fatigued by gender equality, moving the needle requires an inclusive approach that encourages males to understand and champion workplace change.

When men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organisations see progress, compared to only 30% of organisations where men are not engaged.

“When we’re talking about gender diversity and inclusion it is no longer about what women can do,” Lui said. “It’s about what men can do and what men can do to lead the way because they will be the biggest change makers,” she said.

“We need the voices of men to move the dial and if we build a more equitable and inclusive society, everyone benefits.”

Celebrating our first female NSW police commissioner

Congratulations to Karen Webb on being appointed as the first female police commissioner in NSW.

Webb has served in the force for over 30 years, after joining the force in 1987 at the Castle Hill Police Station, and is currently the Deputy Commissioner.

Webb pointed out that when she joined the police force, only 10% of the total organisation were women. She’s hoping to inspire more females to sign up and says she’s very proud two of her nieces have joined.

"I joined to make a difference and I applied for this job for the same reason," she said.

It’s equally inspiring that Webb intends to use her position to help victims of crime.

"The key focus will be on victims of crime, in particular child abuse victims, victims of sexual assault and victims of domestic violence," she said.

Webb replaces Commissioner Mick Fuller, who noted that he was "incredibly pleased" by the appointment and said her depth of experience had led him to promote her twice during his tenure.

"The future of the NSW police force — and its 22,000 employees — is in good hands," he said.


Let’s chat!
This week’s wrap, just like all weeks, was definitely a jam-packed one so I’d love to know your thoughts on some of these stories. Send me an email at hello@theremarkablewoman.com.au and let me know what you’re thinking!

Until next week,
Shivani

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