'I was sexually assaulted while intoxicated. WA's consent laws don't acknowledge my experience.'

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of sexual assault that may be distressing to some readers.

When Abigail Gregorio first realised that her home state is the only jurisdiction in Australia that doesn't acknowledge how intoxication affects the ability of a person to consent to sexual acts, she was left horrified. And rightly so.

Western Australia's consent laws aren't matching up to the rest of Australia, and there's a serious problem with that.

When looking at the elements of the laws surrounding sexual assault in each jurisdiction, there is a tab that notes circumstances that affect consciousness.

Across Tasmania, ACT, New South Wales, the Top End, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, it is noted that alcohol and drugs impair one's ability to give affirmative consent. Straight forward, right?

When you look at Western Australia's tab for this category though, it is completely blank.

It's this clause that broke Abigail's heart. She says this legislation has left her feeling invalidated as a victim-survivor.

Watch: Sexual consent - the basics. Post continues below.

Video via YouTube. 

Abigail tells Mamamia she was sexually assaulted by two people she thought she could trust in April 2020.

"I was highly intoxicated, which is unusual for me as drinking alcohol often interferes with medication I take. So on this night, I was drinking and clearly not in a good way - friends of mine would have been able to see that. They were also aware that I had a history of a lot of trauma growing up, including instances of sexual assault and I had been diagnosed with PTSD," says Abigail.

"I felt as though the drinks were basically being poured down my throat the entire night. Then the assault took place. I stumbled home afterwards, almost drowning in the shower after passing out. Luckily my cat's meowing managed to wake me up and save me."

This all occurred just before parts of Western Australia went into lockdown. Following on from her traumatic ordeal, Abigail was in her studio apartment by herself amid the pandemic, staring at a blank wall and trying to process what had happened to her.

In a bid to receive emotional support, Abigail reached out to a well-known organisation that specifically helps sexual assault survivors. Unfortunately, in Abigail's case, the service was "at capacity" around the height of the pandemic, and she was unable to get support from them. 

Abigail was also estranged from her family, and had few friends, leaving her quite isolated.

"I spent a lot of time with a lot of shame and a lot of guilt. I kept getting angry at myself for being so intoxicated," she says.


"It was through therapy later that I recognised that what happened wasn't my fault. I also had to recognise that I had no control over the situation, nor do I have much control of it ever happening again. I think that's one of the biggest barriers in terms of intrapersonal healing that comes with being a victim-survivor of sexual assault."

The first person Abigail told about her experience was a lecturer at her university, where she was studying a double major in Law & Society and Criminology.

"I must have been very absent in class, which was unlike me. He asked me if everything was okay. I kind of word-vomited it out, and he was so lovely. He then sent me an email later with a tonne of resources in it. He said he was so sorry for what I had gone through, and that he wouldn't bring it up with me again but if I wanted to reach out I was more than welcome to. 

"It was via that email that I found help through my university's medical centre. I got a good GP and an amazing therapist who has been integral to helping me."

Abigail didn't feel comfortable going to authorities about what she endured. She did however look into the law to see what her options were.

"I went to look at the legislation to see how the law would work, and then I combed through it all and found the empty clause about intoxication impacting consent. It felt like WA didn't care."

Technically speaking, there are ways for victim-survivors who were intoxicated when their assault took place to seek legal justice. Case law is often the most common avenue - case law referring to law that is based on judicial decisions rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations.


But as Abigail tells Mamamia, case law is something that isn't easily accessible to a great deal of the public, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

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"I'm a woman of colour, I come from a lower socio-economic background and a broken home kind of thing. The people involved in my assault, were the complete opposite in terms of demographics. I was very aware of the power hierarchy."

Part of Abigail's healing process has been therapy, "removing the remaining toxicity from her life", and working hard on survivor advocacy.

Originally part of a university assignment, Abigail founded the WA Consent campaign to address the disparity in WA's consent and intoxication laws and that of other states. 

Currently, WA is reviewing its sexual assault laws. Once submissions are open to the public, WA Consent plans on bringing this issue forward with the support of the accompanying petition. Abigail tells Mamamia that she finds a lot of empowerment in "meaning making".

"I personally don't subscribe to the belief that 'everything happens for a reason'. Cruelty shouldn't be accepted. But I do believe humans have this incredible ability to garner reason from anything. I think we have this kind of inherent resilience to take situations and try and make meaning of it or at least use it to fuel something else. And that's what WA Consent has been for me," she says.


There's no denying that for many victim-survivor advocates, speaking on this very subject can garner mixed emotions. Sometimes it can be triggering, other times it can be incredibly cathartic to be making a tangible difference. Abigail knows this feeling well.

"Some days it is debilitating. Others I feel really empowered. I've been through a lot, and it is horrendous. But I think living long in spite of everything and refusing to let it define my future - that means a lot."

As for what the future looks like for Abigail, she feels hopeful. By the end of 2024 she plans to finish her postgraduate Juris Doctor degree. She also loves volunteering, doing exciting projects and seeing her favourite band in concert. 

"I just really want people to know they are important and that their experiences matter - even if the legislation doesn't reflect it or some people don't support them. That doesn't invalidate them at all."

For more WA Consent, you can visit their website here

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Supplied.