Imagine being a sexual assault survivor wanting to speak out and being told you can’t. That’s the reality in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, where a law demands that nobody can reveal the identity of a sexual assault survivor even with the survivor’s permission. The #letherspeak campaign is pushing for this to change.
Nina Funnell, director of End Rape on Campus, began leading the initiative after meeting sexual assault survivor ‘Jane Doe’. At 15, ‘Doe’ was groomed, molested and repeatedly sexually assaulted by Nicolas Bester, her then-58-year-old maths teacher. At 16 she reported the abuse to the police and Bester pleaded guilty in court.
But when ‘Doe’ tried to share her story with the world through an article by Funnell on News.com.au, lawyers stopped them from going to print. The issue was section 194K of the Tasmanian Evidence Act, a law that prevents sexual assault victims in Tasmania from being identified in the media even with their full consent.
Meanwhile, Bester has been sharing his side of the story including in an interview with commentator Bettina Arndt.1
Funnell and the other supporters of #letherspeak want to amend sexual assault laws to bring Tasmania and the NT in line with the other states. An online petition says that the laws must be amended so that no person or media outlet can reveal the identity of a sexual assault survivor UNLESS they give consent: https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/let-her-speak. The campaign has had the backing of celebrities like Alyssa Milano and John Cleese as well as high-profile survivors like Tara Moss, Jane Caro and Bri Lee.
The campaign has been so effective that Attorney General Elise Archer has told reporters the Tasmanian government is considering changes to the Evidence Act and will prioritise this in the coming months.2
Why is it important?
Nina Funnell has said that “the most empowering thing I ever did following my own assault was to speak out publicly about it. It was an important part of my recovery”.
In the age of the NOW movement, the public has seen how powerful it is when women speak out about sexual harassment and abuse. It helps to lift the blame from the shoulders of survivors and place it on those of perpetrators.
Jannika Jacky, who was raped on her eighteenth birthday by someone she thought was her friend, says visibility is crucial. An Indigenous woman, Jacky says Indigenous survivors are often invisible in media portrayals of sexual assault and that section 194K is another form of erasure.3
Contact Us: Abuse Lawyers
While no amount of money can take away the pain of sexual abuse, Shine Lawyers can help you access compensation and get the care and support you need. Our experienced lawyers work on a No Win No Fee basis and will handle your claim with understanding and empathy. For more information contact us: https://www.shine.com.au/service/abuse-law.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: April 1, 2020.