Victims of domestic violence will be better protected under sweeping changes to Victoria’s sex crime laws, with people convicted of non-fatal strangulation facing up to 10 years behind bars.

The reforms, to be introduced to state parliament today, will create two new offences under the Crimes Act.

The first, carrying a five-year maximum sentence, will not require proof of injury.

The second more serious offence will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars and will apply to instances where a perpetrator intentionally causes injury to the victim.

The changes come after extensive research, which found someone who survives non-fatal strangulation by a current or former partner is seven times more likely to be seriously injured or murdered by that partner.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said non-fatal strangulations were rarely an isolated event and that the new stand-alone offences would make clear the “severity” of strangulation within family violence.

“It (non-fatal strangulation) often reveals an ongoing and escalating pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour – especially when it occurs in family violence circumstances,” Mr Symes said.

“We’ve listened to the concerns of those families affected by these acts of violence and the Bill will make this behaviour clear for what it is – controlling, dangerous, and unacceptable.”

Family violence Minister Vicki Ward said the new offences built on ongoing work to protect victims, and would “hold perpetrators to account and help to change community attitudes towards family violence.”

A legal defence of consent will be available to the five-year offence, but in the context of sexual activity will require “affirmative consent” in line with “victim-centred” standards for other sexual offences.

In a statement, the government said: “This will provide protection for people who have engaged in genuinely consensual non-fatal strangulation during sexual activity and no intentional injury has occurred.

“These reforms have been developed to better protect victim-survivors, including those who may not sustain any visible injuries, and to hold account those who use strangulation to exert power and control.”

In NSW, a stand-alone choking without consent offence has existed for someone and carries a maximum sentence of five years. If done to enable a serious indictable offence, such as murder, the penalty jumps to 25 years.

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