Sex Abuse Victims in Australian State Could Be Jailed for Publicly Sharing Their Stories, Survivors Demand Law Reform

By AAP
August 28, 2020 Updated: August 28, 2020

Rape and sexual assault survivors in Victoria, Australia, want the law changed so they can speak publicly about their abuse without having to get permission from a court.

The law, the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act as it stands today, means survivors could be jailed for up to four months or face fines using their real names to share about their abuse without a court permission.

The new law was enacted in February and applies to the victims of convicted paedophiles and rapists. It prohibits these sexual assault victims from publicly identifying themselves by their real identities, such as in publications like media reports or autobiographies.

The new law also means that victims who have lawfully identified themselves publicly prior to February are also now censored. Australian media outlet news.com.au noted that media outlets who defy the law can also be prosecuted and face fines of up to $8,000.

Victorian Attorney General Jill Hennessy says the laws were designed to protect survivors but has indicated she is willing to revisit them.

Victorian Parliament
Jill Hennessy enters the Victorian parliament house in Melbourne, Australia, on April 23, 2020. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The Victorian state government says the amendments to open courts laws mean those wanting to go public can apply to lift a ban on publishing information that could identify them.

News.com.au noted in its report, “The only way for a survivor to reclaim the right to self-identify in public, is to take the matter to court and obtain a court order—a process which could cost each victim in excess $10,000.”

Survivors have been left feeling silenced.

“It makes me enraged. It’s so regressive and so disempowering,” one told the Australian Associated Press. “As a society we’re working towards empowering victims and this just takes us in the opposite direction.

“The choice of whether (victims) tell their [story] at any point of that (court) process should be completely in their hands.”

The woman said she expected to meet with Hennessy in coming days to push for changes. “I’m sure (this) is the opposite of what they intended,” she added.

Hennessy says she has asked the justice department to look at whether further changes are needed because of the concerns raised.

“I acknowledge the strength and resilience of victims who come forward and tell their stories—it is an incredibly brave and difficult thing to do,” she said on Aug. 26.

Hennessy added that changes had been brought in because survivors previously didn’t have a clear way to navigate court bans designed to protect their identities.

“I remain concerned about the barriers, both cultural and legal, that continue to exist for victims of sexual assault,” the minister said.

By Georgie Moore and Gus McCubbing

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.