Rape victim’s surprising message
A GANG rape survivor from Burnie, Tasmania has been inundated with support after revealing her story to news.com.au last week.
In 1993, at age 16, the schoolgirl was abducted on Christmas Eve and driven to an abandoned paddock where she was beaten, gang raped and then taken to dig her own grave.
Speaking on The Project last night she told host Hamish Macdonald how she managed to escape after the vehicle she was travelling in was involved in a catastrophic crash.
Now, 25 years after the gang-rape, the woman is determined to tell her story under her real name. But an archaic law which exists only in Tasmania and the Northern Territory gags all sexual assault survivors from ever being named. If this publication names her, we could be prosecuted and face jail time.
Nor is she able to publish a manuscript about her experience, despite the men responsible having been found guilty.
In a remarkable development, one of the convicted gang rapist's own relatives has donated money to help the survivor in her plight to be heard.
The relative, who has asked not to be named, says that there was a greater principle at play and that the Burnie survivor deserved the basic dignity of being able to use her own name.
"I feel it's important that survivors are able to name themselves to give them full ownership and autonomy. Their stories need to be out there (if that's what they want)," the rapist's relative said.
The relative also messaged the survivor saying: "Thank you. The work you're doing will help to make the world a safer place for our daughters and granddaughters. The victims have been silenced and shamed for long enough."
The survivor, who has chosen to go by the pseudonym Leia*, says she is "blown away" by the level of public support for her since speaking out about the issue last week.
"It nearly made me cry. It was an emotional moment when I saw that one of my rapist's relatives had donated. I just have a lot of love for the fact she would do that," she said.
"The whole response has been extremely supportive. Twenty-five years ago it was a completely different story and there was a lot of judgment. I was called names and asked 'what were you wearing?' and 'why did you get in the car?'
"But I feel really strong and positive and it's the absolute right thing to do. So many people have written kind things.
"I am completely blown away. I'm just in awe and I appreciate absolutely every cent that they have donated.
"I don't want to be remembered as the 16-year-old that got raped. I'm more than that, I am absolutely more than that night."
More than 5000 people have signed a petition for law reform started by End Rape On Campus Australia with Marque Lawyers. Tasmania's Attorney-General, Elise Archer, has recently released a discussion paper and called for submissions regarding the gag law.
"It takes immense courage for survivors to speak about their experience, and the Tasmanian Government is currently considering reforms to our laws to facilitate those that wish to be identified, to do so more readily" Minister Archer said.
"We are currently calling for feedback on our Discussion Paper into section 194K of the Evidence Act 2001. We recognise concerns that the current provisions do not strike that balance, which is why we are consulting with the broader community to inform potential future reform.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available by calling 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
To support Leia's legal fight to reclaim her name, donate to her GoFundMe here.
Nina Funnell is a Walkley Award winning journalist and a director of End Rape On Campus which is responsible for the #LetHerSpeak campaign.