Saxon Mullins didn't consent & a judge said it wasn't rape

Saxon Mullins didn’t consent & a judge said it wasn’t rape

“My name is Saxon Mullins. In 2013, when I was 18 years old, I was raped in an alleyway in King’s Cross.”

In all likelihood you know many of the graphic details of the horrendous night that changed Saxon Mullins’s life forever.

You might know that she had come to Sydney from the central coast for her first night out in the city with friends. You might know that she was a virgin.

You might know that she was led off the dance floor at a nightclub, by the son of a wealthy man who co-owned the club, on the premise of going to the “VIP section”. You might know that the promised VIP section was actually a deserted alleyway outside.

You might know that once outside she was told to put her ‘f*cking hands on the wall’. You might know that, terrified, she got on her hands and knees in the gravel as instructed.

You might know that she was then anally raped by the 21 year old whose name she didn’t even know.

You might know that the next morning that 21 year old Luke Lazarus exchanged these text messages with a friend:

LUKE LAZARUS: I honestly have zero recollection of calling you, was a sick night. Took a chick’s virginity, lol.

FRIEND: Bahahaha. Nice popping [those] cherries. Tight?

LUKE LAZARUS: So tight. It’s a pretty gross story. Tell ya later.

You might know that while that was going on Saxon Mullins was undergoing a painful medical examination after reporting the events to the police. An examination that revealed injuries consistent with Mullins’ account of the incident.

You might know these details because they were revealed in the almost five year highly publicised legal battle that followed which included two trials and two appeals.

Luke Lazarus pleaded not guilty and insisted the sexual encounter had been consensual. A jury determined otherwise in 2015 and Lazarus was convicted of rape and sentenced to a minimum of three years in jail.

He appealed and was awarded a retrial but without a jury. After spending less than 12 months behind bars he was acquitted and set free on account of the trial judge determining that while Saxon Mullins did not consent to the intercourse, she was not satisfied that Lazarus was aware she had not consented. For rape to have occurred it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was no reasonable basis for the belief that the complainant was consenting.

It is a legal technicality that is hard to bear that poses serious questions about how the law interprets. (In late 2017 the Criminal Court of Appeal found the trial judge had erred in her judgement but determined a third retrial would be unfair on Lazarus.)

A fierce desire to change the way consent is determine is what led Saxon Mullins to give up her anonymity to tell her story to ABC’s Four Corners this week. Because for all of the ghastly details we have known about that dreadful evening until Monday we didn’t know the young woman at the centre of this controversial rape trial. Her identity had been protected.

“On a social level, I think we need to teach people about making sure that the person that you are with wants to be with you. Enthusiastic consent is really easy to determine. And I think if you don’t have that, then you’re not good to go,” Saxon Mullins said. “All you need to say is, ‘do you want to be here? And very clearly, ‘do you want to have sex with me? Do you want to be doing what we’re doing?’ And if it’s not an enthusiastic yes, then it’s not enough. If it’s not an enthusiastic yes, it’s a no. That’s it. And then, you’re committing a crime. Simple as that.”

Louise Milligan’s report ‘I am that girl’ revealed a remarkably articulate and composed 23 year old. A courageous young woman who has maintained a fight for justice that anyone could readily be forgiven for abandoning.

It was as hard to watch Mullins describe the details of that night and the events afterwards as it was to comprehend the legal machinations that failed her.

Before that night almost exactly five years ago, in her own words, she had lived a sheltered life and was excited to be on the cusp of adulthood.

“Just super-carefree and just kind of getting started. I didn’t have kind of any worries about anything. I was just like, ‘this is the beginning, of, like, awesome.”

Except it wasn’t. Five years on her older sister Arnica told 4Corners she is burdened with anxiety.

“Saxon probably has not slept a full night, I don’t think,” she said. “She wakes up every morning and she’s tired. She’s extremely anxious I think all the time. I think anxiety is something she now lives with.”

“There was just like a light in her,” her best friend, Brittany Watts, who was with Mullins that night, told Louise Milligan. “She was just so bright, she was so happy, everyone loved Saxon. Everyone loves her. And this light, it’s just not there anymore.”

It makes Mullins’ determination to speak out, rather than seek out anonymity, even more extraordinary. She has done so with the hope of starting a conversation about enthusiastic consent and achieving reform in the realm of consent laws.

In regard to the latter she has already got the ball rolling.

Her story so disturbed the New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman that on Tuesday he announced he is referring the consent laws to the Law Reform Commission.

“[Saxon Mullins has] been humiliated in an alleyway at the age of 18, she’s had to tell her traumatic story in court, she’s had to face two trials, two appeals, and still, no final outcome,” Speakman said. “From her viewpoint, the whole process has been, I imagine, just a huge disappointment. What this shows is that there’s a real question about whether our law in New South Wales is clear enough, is certain enough, is fair enough. That’s why I’ve asked the Law Reform Commission to look at the whole question of consent in sexual assault trials.”

May it be the beginning of change championed by Saxon Mullins.

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