Stop Silencing Survivors: #LetUsSpeak

Thousands of Victorian sexual assault survivors have lost their legal right to speak out. In February, new state laws were quietly introduced which silence all sexual assault survivors whose offenders have been found guilty. 

These new laws prevent survivors from speaking to media using their real names, in all cases which have resulted in a conviction.  The laws apply regardless of whether the victim consents to be named. They also silence many survivors who have lawfully been able to tell their stories in public in the past.

Those found guilty of breaking these sweeping new laws could face up to four months jail and fines in excess of $8,000.

The Ballarat survivors, victims of clergy abuse, and other public survivor advocates are among those who have lost the right to speak and could now face contempt of court if they continue their campaigns or media work.

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. This can and is costing survivors thousands of dollars.

In 2018, as a survivor of sexual assault and journalist, I launched the #LetHerSpeak campaign  to overturn similar sexual assault victim ‘gag-laws’ in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Those laws were preventing survivors from courageously sharing their stories. We won - with landmark reforms being introduced in Tasmania and the NT this year to allow survivors to speak out.

But as we celebrated these victories, Victoria took a step backwards and overnight thousands of Victorians lost the power to share their stories, as and how they choose.

Victorian survivors of sexual assault deserve to be heard.
Today, I’m launching the #LetUsSpeak Victoria campaign to insist the Victorian Government amend these new laws and allow all survivors of sexual assault and abuse the option to waive their right to anonymity - if they so choose - and speak out about their experiences. 

The first step will be to raise $20,000 to fund court orders allowing three survivors to legally share their stories under their own names.

One woman, Maggie (not her real name) was raped and abused by her own father from age eight. He later murdered Maggie's step-sister, when she revealed to police that she, too, had been molested. He has been found guilty of both sexual assault and murder but may soon come up for parole and Maggie wants to speak out to warn the community, while also honouring her sister's memory.

The second woman, Melissa (not her real name) is a rape survivor and disability advocate. She was raped by her carer who was sent to jail for 2.5 years. Melissa now also wants a court order so she can be named in public and continue her advocacy work. 

The third survivor, is a man who was sexually abused by Australia's most notorious paedophile, Gerald Risdale. He has spoken out dozens of times in the past and as a result numerous other survivors have come forward about their own abuse. He is now also prevented from continuing his vital advocacy work. Peter (not his real name) is also working on a book which is scheduled to come out next year. Without a court order, that may not be possible.

The funds raised will cover court orders and ongoing campaign work, and additional funds, will be allocated to further fund court orders beyond these three cases. As campaign manager, I (Nina Funnell) will be withdrawing the money raised on this GoFundMe to distribute it as listed above.

There is power in survivors sharing their stories in their own names - it shifts shame and it shifts blame from the survivor to the offender. And it empowers others to come forward. 

Together, let’s fight to give all Victorian survivors their voices back.

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*The #LetUsSpeak Victoria campaign has been formed in partnership with Marque Lawyers, End Rape On Campus Australia and Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy initiative. The campaign is an affiliated sibling-campaign to the #LetHerSpeak campaign.


Nina Funnell - the creator of the campaign - is a sexual assault survivor, advocate, and award winning journalist. She has twice been awarded the Walkley (Our Watch) award for her reporting on sexual violence (2017; 2020) and in 2019 was named Journalist of the Year at the B&T Women in Media awards. She has previously been awarded an Australian Human Rights Commission Community (Individual) award (2010) and a United Nations Media Australia award (2017) for her reporting on sexual assault.

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Organizer and beneficiary

Nina Funnell 
Organizer
Melbourne, VIC
Marque Lawyers 
Beneficiary
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