Author and rape survivor Tara Moss is using her platform to draw attention to a law so outrageous, it’s hard to believe it even exists.
Right now, in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, no one can reveal the identity of a survivor of sexual assault, even if the survivor agrees to it. What it means is that perpetrators have a voice but survivors don’t. It means, when survivors are ready to say #metoo – a step which is proving to be an important one in the healing process – they can’t, without being found in contempt of court. It means the courts can talk about the case and journalists can write about the case – but the survivor has to remain anonymous. It means they never really get to tell us their story.
Tara is one of hundreds of people who have signed a petition calling for the two states to update their laws so that a survivor can be identified, if she (or he) consents, without facing penalty. “It’s unconscionable,” Tara says in an Insta post, “that in 2018, Australians in Tasmania and NT who have been sexually assaulted or abused are not legally allowed to speak up and identify themselves, because of an obscure law.”
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#LetHerSpeak This is an important one. Gagging survivors of sexual assault from speaking out is hugely problematic and sends the message that they have no agency, no control over their own stories and their own lives, just as they had no choice in what was done to them. It protects predators and silences survivors. Yet Section 194K of the Crimes Act does precisely that. The laws in Tasmania and NT, which state that sexual assault survivors cannot speak out and cannot appear in media or be named even with the survivor’s full consent, must come into line with other states, to reflect a survivor’s right to tell her or his own story if they choose. Please consider signing the petition here: https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/let-her-speak To understand how shockingly unjust this law is, read about *Jane Doe, and why she wants to speak out, here: https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/let-her-speak-shocking-reason-woman-cant-tell-her-sexual-assault-story/news-story/718ad770a25833970f961c551f3eaab1 (I HATE having to call her Jane Doe. It’s not her name and she doesn’t want to be known as Jane Doe. The law prevents me from giving her the dignity of her own identity.) This is just one horrific story among many. #letherspeak #speakout #respectsurvivors #speakingout #metoo #survivorsmatter See also: ‘Let sexual assault victims speak: Tara Moss calls for change to Tasmanian law’ (Link in the bio) Please consider supporting this campaign, which has been designed by Nina Funnell in partnership with End Rape on Campus and Marque Lawyers, and is supported by *Jane Doe and many other survivors, including myself. Join us in pushing for urgent law reform now: www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/let-her-speak
The petition and supporting campaign #LetHerSpeak was started by another sexual assault survivor, journalist Nina Funnell. She wanted to tell the story of 22-year-old Jane Doe (yep, because she can’t be named) who was raped as a teenager by her Maths teacher, Nicolaas Bester, at a school in Tasmania. Nina was stopped from sharing this particular story because of the law – section 194K of the Tasmanian Evidence Act – and she was furious. “The most empowering thing I ever did following my own assault was to speak out publicly about it,” Nina explains in the petition, “it was an important part of my recovery.”
Similarly, Tara Moss describes being sexually assaulted when she was 21 in her book The Fictional Woman – a choice she made, to share her story with the world, a choice she was free to make. In fact, she speaks out about her experiences often either in opinion pieces, on social media or while giving public talks. “Gagging survivors of sexual assault from speaking out is hugely problematic and sends the message that they have no agency, no control over their own stories and their own lives, just as they had no choice in what was done to them.”
Shouldn’t every survivor have the right to tell their story? To own what’s happened to them and reclaim their power like Tara and Nina did?
At the time of writing this post, 1,926 people have signed the petition calling for an amendment to the laws in Tassie and NT. If you’d like to add your signature, you can do so HERE.