SEXUAL assault survivors say they are ‘relieved’ and ‘overwhelmed’ to learn they are finally free to speak out under their real names.
SEXUAL assault survivors say they are ‘relieved’ and ‘overwhelmed’ to learn they are finally free to speak out under their real names.

#LetHerSpeak: Sexual assault survivors welcome landmark laws

SEXUAL assault survivors in the Northern Territory say they are "relieved" and "overwhelmed" to learn they are finally free to speak out under their real names without risk of prosecution, following the passing of landmark new laws yesterday.

Until now, it has been a crime for sexual assault victims in the Northern Territory to self-identify in media, and journalists who named survivors - even with their full consent - could face up to six months' jail.

In 2018 the #LetHerSpeak campaign was launched by News Corp - publisher of the NT News - in partnership with End Rape On Campus Australia and Marque Lawyers.

The campaign called for an overhaul of archaic victim gag-laws that silenced survivors in both the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

In response, the Tasmanian laws were reformed in April this year and the NT Government has now followed suit.

"It feels amazing, as up until now I was treated like I was criminal," Adriana*, a sexual assault survivor from the NT whose story will now be published in full in coming weeks, said.

"I've wanted to share my story and I wasn't able to. It's been so hard for me, and also for other women who have also had to wait."

Sandra*, who joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign after being raped at work in 2017, says she feels "relieved" and "overwhelmed" by yesterday's news.

"This gives me back a bit more freedom. It's been such a long journey and when you're sitting in a courtroom it doesn't feel like anything positive will ever come out of what you've been through.

"The amount of times I've wanted to write something on Facebook to explain to people what happened to me, my true feelings, and why I fell off the face of the earth … but I couldn't even do that.

"It made me feel even more isolated, like I was the bad one who did something wrong. I'm glad that other (sexual assault survivors) aren't going to have to worry about that, when they should be worried about focusing on getting better."

Michael Bradley, who represents both Adriana and Sandra and is the managing partner of Marque Lawyers, said the reform "restores the balance to where it should be".

"It's been really rewarding working directly with the survivors along with End Rape On Campus to make this happen. This is a great day for survivors," he said.

NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles has praised those sexual assault survivors who wished to tell their stories to "help others to understand more about the impacts and consequences of sexual violence".

"The retelling of (survivor) stories no longer attracts the stigma of shame or embarrassment and can be an important part of the healing process - our legislative amendments are an important mechanism to allow survivors to do that," she said.

* Not their real names

*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.


Originally published as #Let Her Speak: Sexual assault survivors welcome landmark laws