Change To Victorian Sexual Assault Laws Groundhog Day For Tasmania


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CONTENT WARNING: Sexual assault

Recent changes to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Acts in Victoria is silencing sexual assault survivors and making it unlawful for them to identify themselves publicly and share their stories.

The new law applies to both sexual assault survivors whose perpetrators have been convicted and to those whose cases are still active within the courts.

The changes that were discreetly introduced in February are being described as gag laws used as a tool to silence victims and ultimately protect offenders.

Recently Tasmania and the Northern Territory have repealed their states gag laws.

Journalist and #LetHerSpeak Campaign Creator, Nina Funnell, spoke to Brian about the changes to Victoria’s gag laws and why it is Groundhog Day for Tasmania.

“Both Tassie and the NT had changed the laws in their jurisdictions and all of a sudden a survivor in Victoria popped up and said I would like to tell my story and honestly it was like Groundhog Day all over again.”

Nina explained that the new law in Victoria not only prohibits people who have been sexually assaulted, after the laws were changed, to speak out publicly and be identified in the media by their real names.

Survivors who have been speaking out publicly and advocating for decades will now also be prohibited to speak out and will need to apply for a court order if they want to continue using their names.

If survivors breech this new law, they could face up to a three thousand dollar fine or a jail sentence of up to four months.

Media establishments could also face a fine for using or publishing a person’s name whether it be the survivor or perpetrator

“The media just won’t use them, they won’t speak to them or publish their names anymore because we carry the risk.”

“We’re the ones who will get fined or face potential prosecution and what that does in one way or another still has the silencing effect and that is what’s really appalling.”

Nina says that the changes to the law shouldn’t be seen as necessarily ‘malevolent’ or setting out to take away any rights for survivors rather it could be put down to incompetence within the Victorian Government.

According to Nina it looks as if no one read the act before it got passed in parliament.

“While I am sort of rolling my eyes at the moment, the reality is that whatever the intent, the effect is the same.”

“For survivors it is appalling, it is devastating, and it needs to be changed.”

Victoria’s Attorney-General, Jill Hennesy, has come forward and said that their will be an urgent review of the legislation.

While Nina welcomes the idea of the Victorian Government fixing the law, she states that she would have liked them to have made the changes when she approached them in March and again in June this year.  

“We have known about this for months, so this whole circus of them saying that we are going to act quickly, well great but why did it have to hit the front pages of the media before you took a serious look at survivor rights.”

Check out the full interview below!

If you or anyone you know needs help:

National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling service - 1800RESPECT

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Chelsea Wilde

28 August 2020

Article by:

Chelsea Wilde

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