Under the current Tasmanian law, laws prohibit survivors from being named in the media, regardless of whether they give their consent. In 2012, a Tasmanian newspaper breached this law and received a $20,000 fine, even though the assault survivor had given full consent to the publication. These ‘sexual abuse gag laws’ take away the agency of survivors and their ability to heal in their chosen way and have led to the powerful movement in Tasmania known as #LetHerSpeak launched in November 2018.
#LetHerSpeak campaigners argue that survivors have the right to identify themselves in the media and to share their own story, especially given the perpetrators frequently share their stories and names. In August 2019, Grace Tame won a court order exempting her from the gag laws and allowing her to speak out using her real identity. However, this court application was lengthy and cost approximately $10,000 in legal fees.
As a result of the campaign, Tasmanian Attorney-General Elisa Archer has revealed plans to amend the law, specifically the Evidence Act 2001 (Tas), to enable publication of the survivor’s name if the following conditions are met:
- The victim has authorised the publication of their name in writing,
- They are over 18 years old at the time of publication,
- They have the capacity to consent, and,
- They were not coerced into consent.
The law would continue to have safeguards and protections for the survivors who do not wish to be identified, and it would still be a serious offence to breach these laws. The changes will be released for consultation before the end of 2019, so they can be introduced to Parliament in 2020.
The proposed changes would bring Tasmania into line with other states in Australia. In NSW, sexual assault survivors may be named in the media if journalists have the consent of the victim, and the victim is over 14 years old. The story is similar in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, where the victim must be 18 years old, and in the ACT and Victoria where there is no age requirement to consent to publication. If Tasmania goes ahead with the changes, the Northern Territory will be the only jurisdiction to retain these archaic gag laws.
If you or anyone you know is affected by sexual assault, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or contact Lifeline on 11 13 14. If you would like to discuss your legal options, contact our offices on 8917 8700 or via the enquiry form on this website.