Grace Tame is finally able to talk about the abuse she suffered in a Hobart private school. (ABC News: Jack Fisher)
The first time I met Grace Tame was in 2017. She had contacted End Rape On Campus Australia, after being groomed and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her high school maths teacher, Nicolaas Bester, while attending the elite St Michael's Collegiate Girls' school in Hobart in 2010.
Seven years later, Grace had decided she wanted to tell her story in full. The problem, we soon discovered, was that even though Grace's offender had been found guilty and sentenced to two years and six months' jail, under Tasmanian law no sexual assault survivor can speak to media using their real name unless a court makes a special exemption order.
At the time Grace contacted us, only three sexual assault survivors in the state had ever been granted such a court order.
Finally, after a two-year process — and almost $10,000 in legal fees — Grace Tame was granted a court order allowing her to speak out using her real identity. Now Grace has told her story on national TV and online for the ABC.
It's momentous for those of us involved in the campaign and in bringing Grace's voice to light.
But for other sexual assault survivors in Tasmania, the law remains unchanged.
Leia (not her real name), for example, was just 16 when she was abducted and gang raped on Christmas eve 1993, in a field in Burnie.
Earlier this year I told her story, but to do so I had to give her a pseudonym, despite the fact she wishes to be named.
"I'm so happy for Grace that she can now use her identity because I know she wanted to" Leia says.
"I'm over the moon for her, but I'm sad she had to go through a long court process and I'm frustrated because, legally, now I have to do the same thing.
"At the end of the day we just want to educate people and make things safer for other people and their children and build that awareness."
It's not just Tasmania
While Tasmania reviews their gag law, a similar law also remains in place in the Northern Territory.
Under the Sexual Offences (Evidence and Procedure) Act in the NT, it is a crime for journalists and others to name sexual assault victims, even when they consent.
Those found guilty can face up to six months in prison.
By contrast, in all other Australian jurisdictions (excluding Tasmania and the NT), journalists can name sexual assault survivors provided they have the consent of the victim. In NSW, there is an age requirement and victims must be 14 years of age or older. In Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, they must be 18 and provide consent in writing. (ACT and Victoria have no age requirement).
End Rape On Campus Australia and Marque Lawyers are now working closely with another survivor from the NT, who — like Grace and Leia — also wants to tell her story.
Her offender was found guilty of rape earlier this year and is currently incarcerated. Yet Sandra (not her real name) is unable to tell her story.
"I was shocked to learn that it would be illegal for anyone — including me — to be allowed to identify myself as a victim of sexual assault" Sandra says.
"It's important for victims of sexual assault to be able to tell their own story after an assault because it can help with the healing process.
"The ability to make that choice gives a little power back to someone who has had so much taken from them.
"By gagging victims against their will, you're robbing them of their own unique voice. For change to happen more voices need to be heard."
Forced anonymity reinforces shame
It is deeply disempowering and entirely unjust for sexual assault survivors to be told they are not entitled to use their own name to tell their own story. Relegating survivors to the shadows through anonymity also reinforces stigma and shame.
When I first launched the #LetHerSpeak campaign in November last year, I profiled 14 public sexual assault survivors from other jurisdictions which do not have gag-laws, to both understand and highlight why it is important survivor voices are included in public debates.
Having spoken out publicly about my own assault too, I know firsthand that it can also be an important way of reclaiming a sense of ownership and control over an experience where one has felt fundamentally robbed of power and control.
As Tasmania undergoes the review of their sexual assault gag-law, End Rape On Campus Australia and Marque Lawyers will turn their attentions to the NT.
Clearly, there is work still ahead.
Nina Funnell is a director of End Rape On Campus Australia and the creator of the #LetHerSpeak campaign. In 2019, Nina was named a finalist for a Walkley Award for freelance journalist of the year for the #LetHerSpeak campaign.