Tasmania Will Finally Change Sexual Abuse ‘Gag’ Laws Following Years of Survivor-Led Appeals
“Without my name or my face, it is not my story. It is just my words.”
Survivors of sexual crime in Tasmania will finally be free to speak publicly, with the state government set to amend a legislative loophole that has previously forbidden them from self-identifying in the media.
The decision to amend the legislation follows an extensive #LetHerSpeak campaign, which saw survivors advocate for the freedom to be able to tell their own stories. Under the new law, individuals over the age of 18 will no longer need to get a court order to name themselves — as long as they provide written consent and can prove they are not being coerced.
Tasmania’s Attorney-General Elise Archer said the change in legislation is long overdue.
"It's important because some victims of crime, as part of their own recovery, feel it necessary and feel that it's therapeutic as well to be able to tell their stories," Archer told reporters. "This has come about as a result of many victims expressing their concern that the laws don't strike the right balance in Tasmania.”
Tasmania is one of two Australian states, alongside the Nortern Territory, where sexual assault survivors are not allowed to identify themselves in the media.
BREAKING: The Tasmanian Govt has revealed that they will amend sexual assault victim gag laws so that victims can speak if:— Nina Funnell (@ninafunnell) October 19, 2019
-18 yrs old +
-consent to be named
-have capacity to consent
-provide consent in writing
We won! #LetHerSpeak@marquelawyers@EROCAustraliapic.twitter.com/98gb4UCwi9
Among those behind #LetHerSpeak is a woman who was kidnapped and raped by a group of men in 1993.
For many years, the woman has hoped to tell her story. She has, however, been unable to raise the legal funds to appeal for a special exemption court order from the Supreme Court, as the process can cost upwards of $100,000 AUD.
The woman — who has to still remain anonymous until the legislative change is complete — says the change will allow survivors to feel supported while also ensuring individuals who wish to keep their identities private are protected.
"As rape survivors, we didn't get a choice in what happened to us, but we should get a choice in what we can say about it," she said in a submission to the government earlier this year, according to SBS. "Without my name or my face, it is not my story, it is just my words, and I am just another number. This is dehumanizing in the extreme."
Please sign and share this important petition to change the laws so sexual assault survivors in Tasmania and NT can speak and be named if they choose #LetHerSpeakhttps://t.co/o2VhYOMoi2 via @MegaphoneAU— Clementine Ford 🧟♀️ (@clementine_ford) November 18, 2018
Grace Tame — one of only four survivors to be granted a court order — says the changes may also help solve crimes.
"Survivors possess unique insights into the dynamics of these crimes, especially the psychological manipulation that characterizes them," Tame, who was repeatedly sexually abused by her high school teacher, told the ABC. "The grooming … is not so easily seen, you know the hiding-in-plain-sight type of stuff, and it's so important that we have the voices who can tell those stories and fill in the education gaps on those issues."
The new legislation will be put to vote in Parliament in early 2020 — although Tasmania’s opposition has already confirmed that they will support the proposed changes.