'It Terrifies Me': Sexual Assault Survivor Wants Reform To Keep Attacker Behind Bars
After three decades of being silenced from speaking about her brutal rape and torture, Tameka Ridgeway is now using her voice to push for reform that would keep her attacker behind bars.
Ridgeway was 17 years old when she and her fiance Dean Allie, 22, awoke to intruders armed with knives in their Hobart home in February 1986.
Jamie John Curtis and an accomplice went on to repeatedly rape and torture the young woman, and brutally bash her fiance, before kidnapping them in Allie's car.
From inside a locked car boot, Ridgeway listened to her fiance's pleas for mercy, before the attackers stabbed him to death.
A judge described Curtis' crimes as "unprovoked, brutal, prolonged, indiscriminate and callous". His accomplice, a 16-year-old minor, cannot be named.
During the harrowing ordeal, Ridgeway's police statement stated she was raped 13 times.
Despite happening more than 30 years ago, the events of that day still play over and over in Ridgeway's mind.
"I get flashbacks all the time -- it can be at the most random times when I'm just doing normal day-to-day things," she told Studio 10 on Monday.
It’s just like a movie that plays over and over, and sometimes I find it extremely difficult to get those visions out of my mind.
Until recently, Ridgeway has not been able to tell her story publicly due to an archaic law -- existing only in Tasmania and the Northern Territory -- that makes it a crime for sexual assault victims to reveal their real names without a court order.
But after a long battle, that has now changed.
Last September, Ridgeway joined #LetHerSpeak -- a campaign spearheaded by anti-sexual assault advocate and journalist Nina Funnell, which aims to overturn such archaic laws and allow victims of sex crimes to identify themselves.
With support from a GoFundMe campaign and Marque Lawyers, Ridgeway took her case to the Supreme Court in Tasmania.
Funnell on Saturday reported in a story on news.com.au that Ridgeway had become the second female sexual abuse survivor in Tasmania to win the legal right to reveal her identity.
Section 194K of the Evidence Act 2001 states that in relation to court proceedings, a person must not publish the "name, address, or any other reference or allusion likely to lead to the identification" of victims of sexual offences.
The provision is designed to offer victims privacy, and protect them from media exploitation. But some survivors claim it effectively leaves them silenced.
"Everyone else has had a piece of [my story]," Ridgeway said on Studio 10 on Monday, after her Supreme Court win.
"The offenders in this case could quite happily be named and tell their story, but I have been silenced for all of these years."
Ridgeway said while not every survivor may want to tell their story publicly, she believes that power should not be taken away from those who do want to.
In response to pressure from the #LetHerSpeak campaign, the state government has drafted legislation to amend the law. Those changes are expected to be tabled in the coming months.
Ridgeway also wants to use her voice to amend another law to ensure her attacker remains behind bars.
Curtis was sentenced to life in prison, but due to a law change allowing prisoners to appeal life sentences, he was re-sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and released on parole in 2018.
Ridgeway said she went into meltdown.
"There was nothing I could do... I accepted it," she said on Studio 10 on Monday.
"I saw a counsellor a few times on the advice of friends, who convinced me that all my fears -- that he would reoffend, that he would prey on women -- were all in my head."
Ridgeway claimed within weeks of being released, Curtis had joined numerous dating websites, and had set up false phone and internet accounts.
Curtis was later imprisoned again for several other offences.
"He obviously has no regard for the law, the community, the parole conditions that were placed on him," Ridgeway told Studio 10.
She said the idea that Curtis could be released again scares her.
"It does terrify me," she said.
Ridgeway told Funnell she is determined to use her voice to change the state's laws around dangerous criminals.
Tasmanian legislation allows for a prisoner to be permanently detained and deemed 'never to be released' if they are classed a 'Dangerous Criminal'.
But only the original sentencing judge can reportedly hear or approve such an application.
Funnell reported the original sentencing judge on Curtis' case resigned from office in 2004 and is now fully retired, meaning Curtis can never be considered under this provision.
“The situation is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous,” Ridgeway told Funnell.
“Criminals such as Curtis can slip through the cracks."
To date, only nine criminals have met the 'Dangerous Criminal' classification.
For now, Ridgeway said she hopes to be an inspiration for other sexual assault survivors.
A GoFundMe to help cover the legal fees of survivors wishing to tell their stories has raised $22,000.
To speak to someone around issues relating to sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
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