A joint investigation by News.com.au and BuzzFeed Australia has revealed three survivors of sexual assault were named and identified in an ABC documentary about #MeToo in Australia without their knowledge or consent.
The national broadcaster was forced to cancel a planned screening of Silent No More, a three-part documentary presented by journalist and author Tracey Spicer, on Monday night after it was made aware of the privacy breach.
Exclusive: The names, images and disclosures of two women were visible in a preview copy of a #MeToo documentary distributed by the ABC. But the women had no idea their details had been shared, our joint investigation with @ninafunnell has found https://t.co/BfNfQTO0zC
— Gina Rushton (@ginarush) November 12, 2019
The names, images and stories of three women were clearly visible in a preview copy of the series that the ABC had distributed to media outlets in early October.
Two of these women, whose names and faces appear, spoke to BuzzFeed & News.com.au and said they had no knowledge that Spicer had shared their confidential disclosures nor that the documentary existed. A third woman identified has since died.
All these disclosures were reportedly made privately to Tracey Spicer via social media after she had sent a widely publicised tweet calling for stories about sexual offenders.
Their disclosures regarded rape, harassment and domestic violence. Alarmingly one of the women identified in the documentary without consent remains in a domestic violence relationship and fears for her safety.
‘Unprofessional, unethical, unsafe’: ABC breaches rape victim’s privacy in new Tracey Spicer documentary. It was a privilege to work on this joint investigation with @ginarush
@HannahD15 https://t.co/tCq4ZaI1OE via @newscomauHQ @BuzzFeedOz
— Nina Funnell (@ninafunnell) November 12, 2019
The ABC confirmed to BuzzFeed and News.com.au that the final version of the documentary which will be broadcast on 25th November would not include references to the women who didn’t consent.
“Due to human error, an early version of Silent No More was provided to a small number of accredited media under embargo,” the ABC said in a statement. “Significant steps were taken to de-identify names and details in the broadcast version and it has always been our intention that these names and details be blurred before broadcast.”
Tracey Spicer has said she is “utterly gutted” and apologised “deeply and unreservedly to those whose names were visible” in the preview version.
“As a participant in this documentary, I was assured survivors’ identities would be fully protected,” Spicer said in a statement. “I apologise deeply and unreservedly to those whose names were visible in that initial version of the program. I’m relieved that the ABC has swiftly moved to take it down and that no one is identified in the broadcast version.”
How survivors choose to tell our stories, who we trust & what happens to that information is a minefield.
This article is horrifying. My story is mine to tell. If I don’t give permission that’s the end of it.
This definitely makes me wary of media. https://t.co/1iPnCwRAlT
— Georgie Burg (@Georgie_Burg_45) November 12, 2019
A trailer for the documentary which included identifying information about three women has been removed from public view.
The ABC has not confirmed how many people watched the preview on a password-protected website that has since been pulled down.
That a program designed to give a voice to the women impacted by sexual harassment and assault has subject two victims to the trauma of being identified without their consent is deeply disturbing.