Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on mandatory drink spiking and sexual violence prevention training

Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on mandatory drink spiking and sexual violence prevention training, on 22 June 2023: 

Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (16:20): On behalf of The Greens, I contribute to debate on the petition to make training for the prevention of drink spiking and sexual violence mandatory for security and bar staff in New South Wales. I acknowledge the work of What Were You Wearing? Australia, a Newcastle-grown community organisation that is dedicated to the eradication of sexual violence. In response to a growing number of drink‑spiking incidences in their local community, members of the organisation took the initiative to stand up and demand change. I acknowledge the member for Newcastle for sponsoring the petition. It is wonderful. It is no easy feat to have a debate on a 20,000-strong petition and I thank the 20,181 people who signed the petition in support of these significant changes and reforms.

I also acknowledge the 14,000 people who shared their stories of when they experienced drink spiking. It is a massive achievement to have this debate, but it is more important to hear the cross-party support across this Chamber in recognising that we need to act together to do more. Everyone deserves to be able to go out and have a drink while feeling safe, but we know that drink spiking happens and happens on a huge scale. There are clear links between people having their drink spiked and going on to experience sexual assault and violence.

This is also a gendered problem. Women are particularly at risk of this behaviour. While it is important to deliver on all of the suggested reforms in the petition, at the end of the day we must step up and stop the perpetrators—the people who believe that they can spike a person's drink and then have some kind of claim of ownership over that person to do what they wish with them. The patriarchy and the arrogance and dominance of sexual behaviour in our society fuels a system and culture in our communities where people think it is acceptable to spike a person's drink and then do whatever they wish with them. The sexism and inequality that exists in our society enables that to fester, and we need to address it.

Shamefully, all too often, victim-survivors are not believed. Their experience is routinely dismissed. The scrutiny and vitriol that is levelled against them is shameful, toxic and relentless. It is critical to acknowledge that when people have their drinks spiked, too often they are not believed. They are instead routinely dismissed as having had too much to drink and being a bit too loose or too messy. They are kicked out of venues when they are in a vulnerable state and put in dangerous and extreme situations. That can then be further weaponised against them if they experience sexual violence, and it has a lasting impact on their trauma and causes harm to them, their communities, their friends and their families.

To anyone who has had their drink spiked, and to all survivors of sexual violence and assault, I say that we see you, we hear you and, most importantly, we believe you. Our night-life and venues must be safer, and staff need the training and resources to make that happen so that they can recognise when drink spiking has happened and how to respond in a way that supports victims in those situations. Even better, we ideally prevent it from happening in the first place and take the appropriate steps in our community and society to stamp out sexual violence and assault in general.

It is also important to recognise that the responsibility should not sit with individuals and victim-survivors, which is why the incredibly named What Were You Wearing? Australia demonstrates the complete hypocrisy and irony of asking a woman, "Did you cover up the drink? Were you watching it? Did you leave it on the bar when you went to the bathroom? Didn't you ask someone to hold it or look at it for you?" Maybe we should ask the guy who just put something in that person's drink and was going to take them outside and assault them why they did that, rather than asking a person why they did not keep holding their drink close to them all night with a coaster rested on it in case they go to the toilet. That is the question that needs to be asked.

Too often, it is young women who are asked to answer questions, instead of the male being asked why on earth he thinks he is entitled to walk into a pub, drug a woman and then sexually assault them. That is the question we should be asking. We must continue to remind people that, at the end of the day, we should be focused on the perpetrators of that kind of aggression and violence. Rather than looking at how we can protect young women, we need to look at how we stop people from being such arrogant, patriarchal men. I was proud to be a part of the reform that delivered the absolute affirmative consent law reforms in New South Wales. I offer The Greens' support for the ongoing campaigning that What Were You Wearing? Australia is doing to end drink spiking and make sure that women, girls and everyone in our communities and bars are safe.

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