Advertisement

The Push To Overturn Laws Stopping Sexual Assault Survivors Sharing Their Stories

A quarter of a century after the horror that took away her teenage years, one woman is using her voice in the hope one day the law will let her, and other rape survivors, speak.

You can't see her face. You can't read her name.

But you can hear her story. When this woman was 16 years old, she was brutally gang-raped by three men in a paddock on the side of the road. It was Christmas Eve, 1993, and the schoolgirl had intended to get a lift to a party with a few men going the same way as her.

"I just had this sinking, extremely sinking feeling" she said.

The reason this woman can't put her name or face to her story is because the attack happened in Tasmania, where an archaic law prevents victims of sex crimes from being made public -- even with the person's full consent.

Image: The Project

The attack happened in the seaside town of Burnie, where everyone knew the woman's story.

"Everyone in this town, they knew it was me, they knew my name," she said.

"It was an open court. Anyone off the street could walk in and listen to me being cross-examined."

The laws were designed to prevent unethical journalists from coercing vulnerable victims outside court into sharing their stories, but rape and abuse survivor advocates say they go too far. Sharing their story can be an important part of healing for some survivors.

This woman wants that choice. The ringleader of her attack died in 2017, and she now feels safe in telling her story in full. But due to section 194K of the Evidence Act, she can't.

It's why the #LetHerSpeak campaign exists: to overturn this archaic law and allow victims of sex crimes to identify themselves.

More than 5,700 people have signed a petition, created by advocate and journalist Nina Funnell, in support of the change.

READ MORE: Retaking Power: Why Sexual Assault Survivors Are Calling To #LetHerSpeak

READ MORE: Why Women In Ireland Are Posting Photos Of Underwear To Social Media

Speaking to The Project's Hamish Macdonald, the woman said her terrifying ordeal was now part of her story.

Returning to the scene of the crime for the first time in 25 years since she was attacked, she said it was like losing a part of yourself.

Image: The Project

But her return to the scene was also a reminder of how far she had come after fighting through one of the hardest moments of her life.

"This is where the rest of my teenage years were taken," she said.

"I don’t want to be remembered as the 16-year-old that got raped. I’m more than that, I am absolutely more than that night."

Watch the full interview on The Sunday Project at 6.30pm.