#LetHerSpeak: Tasmania set to reform sexual abuse gag laws

#LetHerSpeak: Tasmania set to reform sexual abuse gag laws

sexual abuse
Survivors of sexual abuse in Tasmania will soon be able to share their stories publicly, with the State Government set to change laws that prohibit victims from naming themselves in the media.

The archaic gag laws have been the focus of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, championed by survivors who have pushed for the right to identify themselves in the media and share their own story.

Attorney-General Elise Archer announced the laws would be changed in order to bring Tasmania into line with other states in Australia.

“This has come about as a result of many victims expressing their concern that the laws don’t strike the right balance in Tasmania,” Archer told reporters on Sunday.

Under new legislation, survivors over the age of 18 (at the time of publication) will be able to share their stories under their own name, if they have provided written consent and can show they have the capacity to consent to being named and are not being coerced.

“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 said.

The new legislation will provide safeguards to ensure the protection and privacy of victims who do not wish to be named.

In August, Grace Tame won the right to self-identify in the media. She is the first sexual abuse survivor in Tasmania to be allowed to do so, and it only happened after an expensive and protracted court application. It was nine years after she was repeatedly sexually abused by her 58-year-old high school maths teacher.

“When I first met her in 2017 Grace was at a point in her life where everyone else could comment on her case but her,” journalist Nina Funnell told Women’s Agenda in August. “Journalists had written things, her perpetrator had been giving interviews and she was afforded no right of reply. She couldn’t speak.”

The Tasmanian Government will also look to amend the wording of the charge of “maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17”, after criticism that the term “relationship” has connotations of consent.

“Some of the options that other jurisdictions have used is describing it as sexual abuse instead of a relationship and I believe that is important,” Archer said.

Changes to both laws will be put forward in Parliament early next year. The Labor Opposition has said they will support the proposed changes.

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