Alyssa Milano has joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign for law reform so that sexual assault survivors in Tasmania can waive their right to anonymity in the media, if they so choose.
Alyssa Milano has joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign for law reform so that sexual assault survivors in Tasmania can waive their right to anonymity in the media, if they so choose.

Flawed law on track for change

A controversial law that prevents survivors of sexual assault and rape from sharing their stories will be reviewed after a high-profile, global campaign.

The #LetHerSpeak campaign, spearheaded by news.com.au, called on the Tasmanian Government to scrap Section 194K of the Evidence Act.

And today, Attorney-General Elise Archer told News Corp Australia the government was considering changes "and will prioritise this work in coming months".

The #LetHerSpeak campaign was inspired by the story of a Hobart woman, molested by her 58-year-old teacher when she was 15, to illustrate why the law should change.

Jane Doe* has been unable to share her story while convicted perpetrator Nicolaas Bester has spoken to the media on numerous occasions about the impact his offending had on his life.

 

A law designed to protect victims is having the opposite effect by preventing Jane Doe from owning her story. Picture: iStock
A law designed to protect victims is having the opposite effect by preventing Jane Doe from owning her story. Picture: iStock

 

After a week-long campaign, supported by the Mercury newspaper and backed by celebrities including Alyssa Milano and John Cleese, Ms Archer said the message had been heard.

"Importantly, any change will need to be worked through carefully and in consultation with stakeholders and the wider community," Ms Archer said.

Jane Doe told News Corp Australia she was rendered speechless by the swift response to #LetHerSpeak.

"I asked to speak and now I'm speechless. What sweet irony," she said.

"When we achieve law reform it will give a voice to boys and girls who've previously been without one, but the greatest victory has been seeing people unite in the pursuit of justice.

"I'm so proud to be a part of this legacy."

 

Tasmania’s Attorney-General Elise Archer has pledged to review the law. Picture: Richard Jupe
Tasmania’s Attorney-General Elise Archer has pledged to review the law. Picture: Richard Jupe

 

At 15, Jane Doe was groomed, molested and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her high school maths teacher, Bester.

At 16, she had the strength to report the abuse, first to her school, then the police, then through the criminal justice system, where Bester pleaded guilty.

A year ago, aged 22, she decided to tell the whole world her real name and story, but was prevented from doing so by the obscure law in Tasmania.

In 2012, The Sunday Tasmanian newspaper was prosecuted and fined $20,000 when a woman who had been raped spoke out to the newspaper using her real name.

Even though she consented to be named the publication was prosecuted.

At the time of his arrest, Bester was also found to be in possession of 28 images of child pornography on his computer, including images of adults engaged in penetrative sexual acts with children.

After serving 22 months in prison for the sexual assaults and the child pornography offences, Bester was granted an early release in 2013.

In 2015, he reoffended by creating child exploitation material for which he was sentenced to an additional four months in prison.

Jane Doe said she wanted to raise public awareness about the red flags of child grooming to prevent others going through the "hell" she went through.

"Not nearly enough is known about the typical personality profiles of predators, how they operate, nor the processes by which they carefully select, condition and manipulate their victims, as well as their victims' friends and family members," she said.

 

Alyssa Milano joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign for law reform so that sexual assault survivors in Tasmania and the Northern Territory can waive their right to anonymity in the media, if they so choose.
Alyssa Milano joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign for law reform so that sexual assault survivors in Tasmania and the Northern Territory can waive their right to anonymity in the media, if they so choose.

 

Journalist Nina Funnell, who led the campaign, said she was thrilled by Ms Archer's announcement.

"Jane Doe has shown tremendous courage in coming forward to both correct the record in relation to her abuser, Bester, but also to change the law so that all future Jane and John Does can speak out, if they so choose," Ms Funnell said.

"We absolutely welcome this announcement and look forward to working closely with the Attorney-General to shape the legislation to ensure it strikes a balance between protecting victim-survivors from exploitative media, while also ensuring that those who want to speak are not being gagged and silenced."

The Greens have flagged support for reform while Labor has it would need to consult with the legal fraternity on proposed changes.

Nina Funnell is a Walkley Award winning journalist and anti sexual assault advocate and a director of End Rape On Campus Australia

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)



Detectives charge boy with armed robbery of service station

Detectives charge boy with armed robbery of service station

It will be alleged a boy and a girl entered the business about 6pm

Honest insight: New president shares learning experience

premium_icon Honest insight: New president shares learning experience

Hockey leader keen to complete vital projects

CCC to spend holidays wading through Ipswich complaints file

premium_icon CCC to spend holidays wading through Ipswich complaints file

Investigators have received a fresh batch of concerns from council

Local Partners