"Best ever" Q&A strikes a chord across the country

"Best ever" Q&A strikes a chord across the country

It was the conversation Australia needed to have and many were applauding Q&A's discussion on Thursday night of sexual violence and consent.

The show was praised for presenting one of its best programs ever, with those on social media praising the respectful panel and compelling debate on issues like pornography, non-verbal consent and whether single-sex schools were problematic.

Director of advocacy at Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy, Saxon Mullins set the tone for the show by opening the discussion with a speech on her story.

Ms Mullins has given up her anonymity in the past as she appeared on Four Corners in 2018 where she told the story of her 2013 sexual assault.

Her search for justice ended after two trials, two appeals, an acquittal and “no resolution for me”, Ms Mullins said.

“Coming out of a four-year ordeal without closure left me feeling dejected, untethered and determined to tell my story,” she said.

“I did not give consent. But the court found there was the mistaken belief that consent was given.

“I was labelled an unreliable witness to my own story.

“My case triggered a landmark review of sexual assault laws and reignited an ongoing conversation.”

Later in the program, Ms Mullins was asked whether she recommended people to come forward with their own experiences given the scrutiny women face. She said she tried to understand how each survivor is feeling.

“It’s really personal to every survivor, what they see as justice,” she said.

However, she said she didn’t think she would be a massive advocate for going through the police and court process.

“It’s a brutal system,” she said.

Ms Mullins said that a full-scale reform is needed when it comes to specialist courts and the police force.

“Just as an individual, I think most people can never know what you went through. How close does it come to breaking you?” host Hamish Macdonald asked.

Ms Mullins answered: “I don’t think it comes close. I think it just does.”

Her emotional response seemed to hit a nerve with Macdonald, who said: “I’m really very sorry to hear that, Saxon. Thank you for sharing with us tonight”.

The program started off by discussing the NSW Police chief's idea for a consent app, of which broadcaster and author Yumi Stynes said: "It stinks".

“If you can be coerced into sex, you can easily be coerced into ticking a box,” she said.

Stynes, who is writing a book about consent, said children should be given information early, before puberty hormones begin mucking with their brains.

She explained how she uses a “safe word” — a concept more often associated with BDSM — when tickling her children, to help them understand the concepts around consent.

Stynes said tickling was intimate, involved touch, was fun, and done between two people, which is similar to sex.

“There’s always a point with a kid when they start to go ‘I’m kind of hating this. I’m terrified, I’m going to vomit, I’m going to pee myself’.

“And they want to call stop but a lot of their body language is confusing because they also seem to be enjoying themselves.

“In those instances that’s a really good opportunity for the people who are doing the tickling, which is generally a carer or an older person to say, ‘Do you want me to stop?’”

She said this helped the child to realise they had agency over their body and if they say stop, you’ll listen.

Her children also use the words “pineapple” or “eggplant” so she knows for sure they need a time-out.

“A safe word conversation in a sexual context is really good because it means at the start of an intimate encounter you’re already talking about consent and setting something up that gives you an escape hatch,” she said.