Tasmania sex assault gag law to face overhaul early next year

Move comes week after survivor Grace Tame won exemption to tell her story

The Tasmanian government has confirmed it will move to abolish the state’s archaic sexual assault gag laws early next year.

It comes one week after Grace Tame, 24, the sexual assault survivor who campaigned for law reform, won a supreme court exemption to tell her story of being groomed by a school teacher. At the age of 15, Tame was repeatedly sexually abused by her 58-year-old maths teacher, Nicolaas Bester, who was convicted and served time in jail for molesting her.

Under Tasmania’s Evidence Act, survivors of sexual abuse are prohibited from being named and telling their story. In 2012 a Tasmanian newspaper published the name of a rape victim, with her consent, and was fined $20,000.

A Tasmanian government spokesman confirmed it is considering legal changes that will ensure the right balance between protecting all victims of sexual assault and the public interest in open justice.

“We must be careful to get this reform right. There are circumstances where the identification of one survivor may similarly identify others such as siblings,” a spokesman told the Guardian.

“The attorney general has indicated legislation for reform could be in the parliament early next year.”

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In other state jurisdictions the issue of sibling victims is dealt with by giving preference to the sibling that doesn’t want to be named.

Tame was the first female survivor to be named after obtaining a court exemption to speak about her experience.

“I’ve been blown away by all the love I’ve felt from so many people. It shows that when we work together as a community, we can change things for victims and their families,” Tame told News Corp.

Over the years Bester has been able to speak about the saga but, until last week, Tame was known by the pseudonym Jane Doe.

Two years ago, Tame teamed up with Nina Funnell, a freelance journalist and sexual assault survivor, and began the #LetHerSpeak campaign aimed at overturning the gag clauses in Tasmanian and Northern Territory law.

Funnell is pleased the Tasmanian government has made the issue a priority and said the campaign focus will shift to the NT once law reform is achieved in Tasmania.

She said Tame’s story had prompted many parents to have serious conversations with their children about the warning signs of grooming.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” Funnell said.

“As we know, sexual assault survivors are terrified that they aren’t going to be believed or that they are going be blamed or shamed over the violence they have experienced. So to have a public reaction that has been one of unbridled support, has been really moving to see.”

Contributor

Lisa Martin

The GuardianTramp

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