Stop Silencing Survivors: #LetUsSpeak

Join thousands of Australians calling to end the silencing of sexual assault survivors.  The #LetHerSpeak   / #LetUsSpeak Victoria campaigns* have provided direct legal support to 17 sexual assault survivors across Tasmania, the NT and Victoria. Together, we've co-ordinated a multi-jurisdiction media campaign leading to four law reforms across so far. 

There is more to be done. Help continue to fight for the rights of ALL sexual assault survivors across the country to be able to speak out without risk of prosecution to themselves or others with #LetUsSpeak Australia. (You can also learn more about the campaign at the website: https://www.letusspeak.com.au/  )


UPDATE: January 2021 

Did you know that some sexual assault survivors in the Northern Territory are still gagged from telling their stories and can face up to six months jail for breaking the gag law?

Or that the Victorian Government is currently debating the introduction of new laws in 2021, which would make it a crime for grieving parents, relatives and media to name deceased rape victims, such as Jill Meagher, without a court order (which are often expensive and traumatic to obtain)? 



In 2021, the #LetUsSpeak campaign is continuing to fight for the rights of ALL sexual assault survivors to be able to speak out without risk of prosecution to themselves or others.

We’re also providing legal and other support to numerous families in Victoria who are fighting to prevent the introduction of gag-laws which would prohibit the naming of deceased sexual assault victims. 


To date, the #LetHerSpeak/ #LetUsSpeak campaign* has provided direct legal support to 17 sexual assault survivors across Tasmania, the NT and Victoria. We’ve also co-ordinated a multi-jurisdiction media campaign for law reform. 


As a result of the campaign’s work, four laws have now been changed across those three jurisdictions. 


But there is still much work to be done and we need your help to continue. 


In 2021, donations will be used to: 


1. Continue to fight gag-laws in the Northern Territory. 

In July 2020, the NT Government eased the sexual assault victim gag laws, but the reforms only went half way. As a result, ‘Sandra’ whose case spearheaded the NT Campaign, is still unable to reveal her real name and would face 6 months jail for doing so. Her offender, Kevin Willcocks, was found guilty of raping Sandra in front of a group of men at a bucks party in 2017. He has now been released from prison having served nine months jail for the rape, but continues to appeal the verdict, knowing that doing so will keep Sandra indefinitely gagged.


https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/letherspeak-northern-territory-law-reform-divides-survivors/news-story/382e167825d81d1e57b530cdb04430b3


‘Sandra’ should not have to wait another day to tell her story under her real name.


2. Fight with families to prevent the introduction of gag laws which would erase the legacies of deceased rape victims in Victoria. 


In 2020, the Victorian government introduced oppressive gag-laws which prohibited living survivors from being named in media, in cases which resulted in a conviction. We fought that law and had it overturned in November. But the Victorian government is still considering a gag-law on naming all deceased rape victims. That gag would make it a crime for relatives, media, and others to name women like Jill Meagher and Aiia Maasarwe. The government is currently consulting on the law (into February 2021) and the issue is scheduled to be debated some time before September 2021. 


https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/letusspeak-new-bill-will-prevent-jill-meagher-eurydice-dixon-from-ever-being-named-again/news-story/bdecd8cb7ecbebcee34b1836527ddea6


3. Survivor voices project: support survivor stories

Since the campaign first launched in 2018, it has become clear to the campaign creator and partners that more resources are needed to support survivors to understand their rights when working with media. The campaign is currently working to develop materials and resources to support survivors to tell their stories.


*The #LetHerSpeak/ #LetUsSpeak campaign was created by Walkley award winning journalist and survivor advocate, Nina Funnell, in partnership with Marque Lawyers, End Rape On Campus Australia, and Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy. Through integrating awareness raising activities (media advocacy), direct legal support for individual victim-survivors impacted by gag laws (individual advocacy), and government lobbying (systems based advocacy), the campaign takes a holistic approach to law and policy reform.


The original #LetHerSpeak test case: Grace Tame

The campaign was launched in November 2018 and in August 2019, the #LetHerSpeak campaign had its first major public victory revealing Grace Tame’s identity for the first time, after obtaining a court order on her behalf through the Supreme Court of Tasmania . When Grace was 15, she was groomed and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her 58-year-old maths teacher, Nicolaas Bester.  Grace is now using her voice to  educate others on the warning signs of sexual grooming.

That Supreme court exemption, secured with direct support provided by the campaign, then helped pave the way for the #LetHerSpeak campaign partners to fight to overturn Tasmania’s gag laws. The Northern Territory has also made positive strides but there is still work ahead and, as we move into 2021, we are also fighting to prevent new laws in Victoria which may prohibit families of deceased rape victims from naming their loved ones in public.

The #LetHerSpeak and #LetUsSpeak campaigns are advocating for the rights of all Australian sexual assault survivors to tell their stories, how and when they choose, overturning one law and fighting each case at a time.  

(Please note: our media partner, news.com.au's legal counsel, Gina McWilliams assisted with Grace's legal work along with Marque Lawyers. Marque Lawyers have performed the legal work for all other survivors assisted by the campaign).

For immediate help dial: 000 or for  counselling dial 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) and ask to speak to a trauma specialist counsellor. 


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PREVIOUS POST

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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