In Victoria hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual harassment have been stripped of their legal right to share their storeys using their real names.
The changes to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act – introduced quietly in February – silence all victims of sexual assault whose offenders have been found guilty by prohibiting them from ever speaking out under their real identities.
The latest “gag laws” have been characterised as a “major victory” for convicted paedophiles and rapists, as their victims are now “muzzled” and banned from self-identification in publications – including media and autobiographies – irrespective of their permission.
The laws also apply irrespective of whether the crime happened or whether the perpetrator was found guilty, and that Victorian survivors who have been able to share their storeys openly in the past are now being censored.
This includes lists of high-profile survivor advocates – including many Ballarat victims of clergy misconduct – several of whom have spoken out for decades.
Such people are now potentially facing prison time if they pursue their advocacy work under their real names.
Any sexual assault victim found guilty of violating the new laws could face up to four months’ imprisonment and fines exceeding A$ 3000. News companies may also face lawsuits and fines of more than A$ 8000.
The only way a claimant can regain the right to self-identification in public is to take the matter to trial and seek a court order – a procedure that may cost more than A$ 10,000 to each victim.
“There is no way that I would just have A$10,000 sitting around to pay to do this. [I’d] be taking money away from [my] family” says Maggie*, an adult survivor of child rape who wishes to be named but is prohibited from doing so.
“You shouldn’t have to fight for just wanting to tell your story. I have already spent enough time in the courts.”