Under Australian “Gag” Law Victims of Sexual Assault Face Jail or Fines for Publicly Sharing Their Stories

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A quietly-passed law in the Australian state of Victoria prohibiting abuse survivors from publicly identifying themselves is being denounced as a “major victory” for pedophiles and rapists.

Back in February, changes to the state’s Judicial Proceedings Reports Act made it a criminal offense for anyone to publicly share information that leads to the identification of a victim of sexual assault—even the victims themselves.

According to The Daily Mail, sexual assault victims who publicly discuss details of their experiences—including simply saying their real names—could face up to four months in prison or fines exceeding $3,000 under the new law.

Survivors cannot provide any identifying features under the law, including photos for publications such as editorials, memoirs, and autobiographies unless they get a court order.

In order to speak out about their experience publicly, they must either use a pseudonym and avoid all possible identifying details, or they must embark on the arduous and expensive task of obtaining a court order, an endeavor costing more than $10,000 in legal fees alone.

Of course, the law is not without many staunch critics, many of which are seeking to overturn the law as part of the #LetUsSpeak campaign.

“As a result of the new laws, these survivors and others are now being forced to return to court at their own expense and inconvenience, to obtain court orders to speak publicly about their cases,” campaigner Nina Funnell wrote on a fundraising page for the campaign.

In all other Australian states, some thanks to #LetUsSpeak campaigners, adult survivors can automatically waive their right to anonymity in order to go public with their stories.

Funnell previously helped to overturn a similar law in Tasmania.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking fact regarding this nonsensical law is that it affects and can even endanger real individuals.

“There is no way that I would just have $10,000 sitting around to pay to do this. [I’d] be taking money away from [my] family,” an adult survivor of child rape told News.com.au.

The woman, a Melbourne mother using the pseudonym Maggie, was raped from age eight by her father, who also sexually abused her older step-sister identified as Kate.

When Maggie was 17, she told the outlet, her father was arrested and charged with rape, gross indecency, and multiple counts of bestiality after Kate reported her abuse to police.

In May of 1997, four days before his trial, he shot and killed Kate after using a private investigator to track her down.

He was sent to prison the following year after pleading guilty to murder in exchange for the sex offenses being dropped.

As her father’s parole eligibility date drew near, Maggie decided to come forward and an additional nine years were added to his sentence for multiple counts of incest and rape.

In March this year, however, the Supreme Court of Appeal severely reduced his sentence for the crimes against Maggie and ruled that he could serve them concurrently with his murder sentence, leaving him eligible for parole as early as June 2022.

“I’m now a mother of three beautiful children and I wouldn’t want him out in any community,” Maggie said. “I’m not just scared for my children. I’m scared for all children. I also have to be the voice for my sister too. She never got justice for the sexual abuse she experienced either.”

Maggie said she first learned of the new gag law when she contacted Australian media outlets to draw attention to the lenient sentences given to pedophiles like her father, discovering that she could not give the press her name or her father’s.

“My sister was murdered for trying to tell her story and now I’m stopped from telling mine,” she lamented. “He has all the power again. It has to change.”

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