Woman who was preyed on by her maths teacher slams Victorian government’s bill

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A woman who was sexually assaulted by her school maths teacher has vowed to fight the Victorian Government’s plan to jail victims or their families for speaking about rape victims.

Under laws passed in February, Victorian rape and sexual assault victims cannot choose to identify themselves publicly – such as in media reports or even autobiographies – unless they get permission from a court.

Survivors could be jailed for up to four months or face $3,000 fines for telling their stories using their real names without a court order, which could cost them at least $10,000 to obtain. 

Grace Tame, from Tasmania, was just 15 when she became the sexual target of her maths teacher, more than 40 years her senior.

Grace Tame, from Tasmania, was just 15 when she became the sexual target of her maths teacher, more than 40 years her senior. Her experience sparked the #LetHerSpeak campaign

Grace Tame, from Tasmania, was just 15 when she became the sexual target of her maths teacher, more than 40 years her senior. Her experience sparked the #LetHerSpeak campaign

The 25-year-old launched a successful Supreme Court bid to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor and the public awareness campaign has continued

The 25-year-old launched a successful Supreme Court bid to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor and the public awareness campaign has continued

He has since been jailed for rape and grooming, but Ms Tame’s battle has continued as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

Her personal experience sparked the #LetHerSpeak campaign, which aimed to challenge laws preventing victims of sexual assault from publicly discussing the crimes.

The 25-year-old launched a successful Supreme Court bid to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor and the public awareness campaign has continued. 

Ms Tame said the bill will reinforce the idea that ‘there is shame in having to endure unspeakable suffering’. 

‘It’s yet another example of how our society enables predators by silencing the victims, including in this case the grieving relatives,’ Ms Tame told The Australian.  

‘Many families want the opportunity to speak for their loved ones well after their deaths. Requiring such families to seek a court order in order to give their relative a voice requires them to engage in a costly exercise that must, by necessity, cause unnecessary trauma,’ a jointly written letter to the government reads. 

The Judicial Proceedings Reports Act doesn’t explicitly prohibit naming deceased victims, but the Office of Public Prosecutions launched a claim that the word ‘person’ in the act could in theory also apply to dead people.

The mother of Jill Meagher, who was raped and murdered while walking home from a pub in Melbourne in 2012, said she was ‘f**king fuming’ that the government hasn’t consulted any grieving relatives who would be affected by the bill. 

‘It’s such a heartache on all of us who lost our precious ones … How dare they. We will fight it,’ Meagher’s mother Edith McKeon said.

Other grieving parents have also condemned the bill, including the father of Courtney Herron, who was bashed to death in a Melbourne park last year.

Ms Herron’s father John, a lawyer, said courts shouldn’t automatically silence families of victims who want to speak out. 

Ms Tame said the bill will reinforce the idea that 'there is shame in having to endure unspeakable suffering'

Ms Tame said the bill will reinforce the idea that ‘there is shame in having to endure unspeakable suffering’

Other grieving parents have also condemned the bill, including the father of Courtney Herron, who was bashed to death in a Melbourne park last year

Other grieving parents have also condemned the bill, including the father of Courtney Herron, who was bashed to death in a Melbourne park last year

The Judicial Proceedings Reports Act doesn't explicitly prohibit naming deceased victims, but the Office of Public Prosecutions launched a claim that the word 'person' in the act could in theory also apply to dead people

The Judicial Proceedings Reports Act doesn’t explicitly prohibit naming deceased victims, but the Office of Public Prosecutions launched a claim that the word ‘person’ in the act could in theory also apply to dead people

‘It’s crocodile tears to say victims don’t want to be published. It’s an important thing for us to be able to speak out about the process,’ he said. 

Dr Rachael Burgin, lecturer in the Swinburne Law School, described the change in the law as a ‘major victory’ for convicted paedophiles and rapists. 

She said thousands of survivors will now find they cannot tell their stories. 

Not only can victims no longer use their real names, they cannot provide any identifying features such as photos in publications, such as memoirs and autobiographies, unless they get a court order.

‘There is no way that I would just have $10,000 sitting around to pay to do this. (I’d) be taking money away from (my) family,’ Maggie*, an adult survivor of child rape told news.com.au earlier this year. 

WHY WAS THE LAW CHANGED?

The Open Courts and Other Acts Amendment Act 2019, which commenced in February this year, allowed victims of sexual or family violence to apply to courts to lift bans on publishing material that would reveal their identity. 

Before the 2019 amendments, victims did not have a clear mechanism to seek the removal of court orders protecting their identity, which caused uncertainty for those who wished to speak openly about their experiences. 

But the consequence is that it is now an offence to speak out without court permission – even if the victim consents – in cases where the offender is guilty or proceedings are ongoing.

A spokesman for Daniel Andrews referred Daily Mail Australia to Attorney-general Jill Hennesy.

She said: ‘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. 

‘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’.

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