The New South Wales Police Commissioner has suggested an app to formally track consent. The proposed technology would allegedly assist police in combating the rise of sexual assault cases in Australia.
“There is no implied consent. It needs to be positive consent. How do we do that in this day and age? One option is with technology,” Police Commissioner Mike Fuller told the Daily Telegraph.
The Commissioner said that the conversations around sex and consent were outdated and that using technology would be a way to modernise it.
“Technology plays such a big role in our lives, potentially technology could be one of one of many solutions to trying to stop this increase in sexual violence in our state,” he said in an interview with Today.
“This app or this concept of consent, whether it’s on an app or otherwise, that protects everybody… It doesn’t protect everybody in every situation and it’s not the entire solution, but the reality is consent is by far the biggest issue that we are facing in matters of intimate violence.”
The Commissioner didn’t go into details around how this app could work but said he saw it as a possible integration into existing dating apps.
“Maybe in 10 years’ time that will be seen as the normal dating [method]. If you swipe left and right and there’s another option if you want to have intimacy.”
In a press conference, Fuller said the purpose of the app would be to provide clarity and to keep these acts from happening, particularly if one member was impaired. He hopes it would stop cases from entering the justice system to start with.
Fuller acknowledged that an app might not work, but stressed the importance of adopting new technological solutions, such as those used for COVID-19.
The consent app idea has raised concerns
A number of concerns have been raised about this app approach, such as what happens if an individual changes their mind after consenting. There’s also the difficulty of using an app as admissible evidence of consent in a legal court case.
This tactic of a consent app has been trialled in other parts of the world. Last year, Denmark strengthened its rape laws to criminalise sexual acts that didn’t have explicit prior consent.
In response to this, developers released an app called ‘iConsent‘ which connects users via their phone numbers and allows them to fulfil a digital contract of mutual consent.
Whether the app becomes a viable solution or not, Fuller called on the need for new methods for confronting the rise of sexual assault crimes.
According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, sexual assault reports rose by 10% in the last 24 months in NSW. Fuller said 15,000 women come forward each year with reports of sexual assault.
“Whether the app floats or not, I think it’s irrelevant… I think it’s about understanding that this crime is on the increase … and we need to confront it whether that’s through technology or education and training or through other ideas,” Fuller told ABC Sydney.
“We may never see the app again, but I hope we see the conversation about consent again.”
If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, you can call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
And if you’re under 25 you can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.