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In Tasmania, sexual assault survivors want to tell their stories. If they do, they could be prosecuted.

Warning: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.

In Tasmania, two women are preparing for a fight in the state’s Supreme Court.

These women – known by pseudonyms Jane* and Leia* – are fighting to tell their own stories. And they’re fighting for other women in the state to be able to do the same, by trying to change the law.

Because these women are sexual assault survivors, and if they were to share their own stories alongside their real names and faces they could be prosecuted under an archaic Tasmanian law,

Currently, it is illegal for publications in Tasmania and the Northern Territory to name sexual assault survivors, even with the survivor’s full consent. When a Tasmanian publication did so in 2012, it was fined $20,000.

Journalist and anti-sexual assault advocate Nina Funnell is backing the women’s fight. With End Rape on Campus Australia and Marque Lawyers, she is the creator of the #LetHerSpeak campaign to scrap Section 194K of the Evidence Act.

#LetHerSpeak campaign
Leia* wants to tell her story, but if she does she could be prosecuted. Image: Supplied/Nina Funnell.

As a sexual assault survivor herself, to Nina the idea of not having control over your own story is horrific.

"For me being able to tell my story under my real name was a way in which I could fight the stigma and reclaim a sense of control," she told Mamamia.

"What is healing is being able to reclaim a sense of power and control, so to be told by the courts 'You can't tell your own story, we're the ones who get to decide that' is so insulting.

"It exacerbates existing trauma because it re-victimises the person by further stripping them of control."

Through her reporting, Nina has formed close bonds with Jane and Leia, who she describes as "strong, extraordinary women".

Jane was 15 when she was groomed and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her 58-year-old maths teacher. In 2011, He was sentenced to two years and four months in jail for his crimes. Jane has never been able to share her story under her own name, while her perpetrator has spoken to media on numerous occasions.

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Leia was gang raped in a paddock in Burnie, Tasmania on Christmas Eve, 1993. Her offenders also went to prison and she has waited 25 years to tell her story under her real name. Because of the law, she is still unable to do so.

She told Nina, who wrote an article for news.com.au, that without her name and her face it wasn't her story, just her words.

"You need a name and a face. Every survivor deserves that. It’s an injustice not to allow us our names," she said.

Just two men have fought this Tasmanian law and succeeded but no woman has ever been given permission to speak publicly about their sexual assaults.

Nina said Jane and Leia want to fight for the rights of all survivors and empower others to come forward and seek support.

But to do so is not small feat.

Just making an application to have a case heard in the state's Supreme Court costs more than $3000 each. And that, of course, doesn't even come close to touching their legal fees.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover the costs of their legal fight and to support the #LetHerSpeak campaign so that survivors in Tasmania can speak out under their real names.

As well as raising money, the page has provided some truly incredible messages of support for the cause which have touched Jane and Leia.

"In both women's cases, when this happened to both of them they were just teenage girls and in both cases they were mercilessly bullied," Nina explained.

"They experienced extreme victim-blaming to the extent that both of them left Tasmania for a time.

"For them to see a public show of support where they're able to read messages from people who have their backs, that in and of itself for them has been extraordinarily healing to realise that they're not alone anymore."

Nina said both women were currently preparing to go to the Supreme Court as we speak.

"We would expect an outcome very shortly, but it's costing several thousand dollars each to do that."

Every year, Jane and Leia see the anniversaries of their assaults pass without the chance to speak about them.

Hopefully in 2019 this cycle is broken.

To help Jane and Leia in their fight to change Section 194K of Tasmania's Evidence Act, visit the GoFundMe page.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

*Names have been changed.

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