In recent months, some archaic laws about the identification of sexual assault victims have been found to be hurting those survivors rather than helping them. Regulations designed to prevent the naming of victims in the press have effectively prevented those individuals from telling their own stories when they chose to. As the culmination of a two-year campaign, the Northern Territories have replaced their gag rule around assault cases, following a change to similar legislation in Tasmania.
According to the Daily Mercury, the recent legal change in the Northern Territories was brought about as a response to the #LetHerSpeak campaign. The laws in question prevented people who had been assaulted from speaking with the media and using their own names. Even in cases when these survivors wanted to tell their stories, as part of their own recovery and to potentially help others going through similar situations, they were unable to do so, with significant legal penalties for themselves and the news outlets and they went ahead.
News.com.au, the news publication that spearheaded the #LetHerSpeak campaign in the press, reported in late 2019 about the changes Tasmania was making to its reporting laws. The state ensured there are still penalties in place for those who reveal the identity of assault victims against their wishes, while still allowing those who do wish to speak out to sign a document that attests they are willingly naming themselves.
The first change in Tasmania came in August 2019, following a Supreme Court case. Grace Tame, victim of assault by a teacher when she was a 15-year-old student, was the first woman in Tasmania to legally speak about her sexual assault under her own name. News.com.au also reported that some legal language in the state is set to change. Phrases such as "maintaining a sexual relationship" added an unwelcome implication that the victims in cases of child abuse may have consented.
Survivors who spoke with the Daily Mercury stated that they feel a great sense of relief at having the gag law in their states removed from the books. After suffering the ordeal of sexual assault, these victims were then targeted by a law that made them feel like criminals when they attempted to speak out. Breaking the silence around abuse is one of the ways to contribute to a culture where these crimes are less common.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse, you may consult with the experienced lawyers of Gerard Malouf & Partners about seeking damages – our free call number is 1800 004 878 or you may email your enquiry.