Thousands of survivors of sexual assault in Victoria have lost the right to publicly identify themselves and tell their stories, after the state government passed changes to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act.
The ‘gag laws’ effectively silence survivors of sexual assault, where their offender has been found guilty, banning them from speaking out through the media using their own identity. Survivors now need to take the matter to the court and obtain a court order before going public, a process that can be expensive and time-consuming.
The changes to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act mean survivors in Victoria now have limited options to advocate for change, effectively protecting convicted pedophiles and rapists.
Survivors of sexual assault who have previously told their stories in the public domain will no longer be able to. Anyone who breaks the new gag laws faces hefty fine and potential jail time.
The law quietly came into effect in February, and now apply if charges against the offender are pending, or if there has been a conviction
Journalist Nina Funnell, who first reported about the gag laws for News Corp, has created a Go Fund Me fundraiser called Stop Silencing Survivors: #LetUsSpeak. The aim is to raise funds for court orders, allowing three survivors to share their stories using their own names. At the time of writing, the campaign has raised $45,500 dollars from more than 1,000 donations.
EXCLUSIVE: Victoria has now banned ALL sexual assault survivors from speaking to media under real names in any case where the offender has been found GUILTY.— Nina Funnell (@ninafunnell) August 25, 2020
The #LetUsSpeak Victoria campaign is launching today.
Donate: https://t.co/Oz1nYrkVzU pic.twitter.com/YzmlOBKg4T
In light of the #LetUsSpeak Victoria campaign launched by Funnell, the Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy has asked the Department of Justice and Community Safety to review the changes.
On Wednesday, Hennessy said the changes were about reducing barriers and improving clarity for victims who want to share their experiences.
Instead, survivors have been silenced.
The changes that took effect in February were about reducing barriers and improving clarity for victims who want to talk about their experiences, not about introducing new restrictions for survivors who want to go public with their story.— JillHennessyMP (@JillHennessyMP) August 26, 2020
“There is power in survivors sharing their stories in their own names – it shifts shame and it shifts blame from the survivor to the offender. And it empowers others to come forward,” Funnell wrote on the Go Fund Me page.
“Together, let’s fight to give all Victorian survivors their voices back.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732
Reach out for help by contacting Lifeline on 13 11 14