The government of Victoria is reviewing a law passed early this year that requires victims of sexual assault to get a court’s permission before speaking publicly about the crime—and punishes them with a fine (up to $3304) or jail time (four months) if they don’t. In other words, unless they’re using an alias, victims need a court order if they want to, say, write a book about their experience, or give an interview on TV or radio.
Ironically, the law was intended to make it easier for victims to go public. At least, that’s what Victorian Attorney General Jill Hennessy says.
“The changes that took effect in February were about reducing barriers and improving clarity for victims who want to talk about their experiences, not about introducing new restrictions for survivors who want to go public with their story,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I am aware of the concerns raised by victims and advocacy groups regarding the effect of these reforms and have asked the Department of Justice and Community Safety to urgently look at whether further changes are needed to ensure they are effective.”
Many victims of sexual assault go on to experience emotional and psychological issues, necessitating help from a counselor or psychologist. The good news is that more and more mental health professionals are becoming NDIS registered providers.
Per CNN, another aim of the bill was to protect the identities of sexual assault victims who don’t want to go public with their stories—by making it a crime for other people to public share information that could result in the victim being outed.
While other states have similar laws on the books, they allow the victims to surrender their anonymity without facing any penalty. The Victoria law contains no such clause, which is why some people are referring to it as a “gag law.”
A campaign called #LetUsSpeak was initiated this week with the goal of amending the law.
According to a 2012 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 17 percent of adult women and 4 percent of adult men have been sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15. Women, children aged 10-14 years, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples are the highest risk groups in Australia.