Retaking Power: Why Sexual Assault Survivors Are Calling To #LetHerSpeak

Steve Fisher is a survivor of child sexual abuse. His perpetrator, paedophile priest Garth Hawkins, spent almost six years in prison for offences committed against seven boys.

And yet -- despite Fisher going public with his abuse, even launching a support group for survivors -- the only reason 10 daily is able to print his name is because thousands of dollars were spent in acquiring a court injunction to do so.

That's because the abuse took place in Tasmania, where outdated laws designed to protect sexual abuse survivors are in fact preventing from then from speaking out at all, even if they give 100 percent consent.

Steve Fisher is able to share his story, but he wants others to be able to do the same. Photo: Supplied.

Without going public to media, Fisher told 10 daily, he believes his case would never have been properly investigated, and Hawkins would never have gone to trial for his crimes.

But in the days before Hawkins was due to be sentenced, Fisher was informed by the DPP that afterwards, he would no longer be allowed to be identified.

"I was horrified," Fisher told 10 daily.

"I'd already started working on a really great piece where I could tell my story, and speak for the other guys who obviously didn't want a bar of speaking out and being identified.

"When I was told that, I was gobsmacked."

He's one of almost 5,000 people now trying to get the laws repealed through the #LetHerSpeak campaign, not just in Tasmania but also in the Northern Territory.

Nina Funnell, who organised the campaign in partnership with Marque Lawyers and End Rape On Campus, told 10 daily that its vital for survivors of sexual assault to be allowed to tell their stories if they so choose.

"But as the laws currently stand, it's a double standard," she told 10 daily.

"Perpetrators are allowed to tell their side of the story, yet victims aren't."

Tara Moss is one of several famous faces getting behind the campaign. Photo: Supplied.

The laws were designed to protect survivors of sexual assault from unethical journalists, who might coerce vulnerable people into sharing their stories.

But they go too far, say advocates, and prevent survivors from sharing their stories even with absolute consent.

"Some states, like Western Australia, say provision must be given in writing," Funnell said.

"We've also explored a cooling off period, so consent can be withdrawn.

"Ultimately it comes down to the fact that gagging victims is never going to be the answer."

Survivors are now sharing photos urging for the laws to be changed, using the hashtag #LetHerSpeak.

"If I lived in Tasmania or NT I couldn't have written my book -- help us get rid of this heinous old law," tweeted Bri Lee, whose memoir Eggshell Skull details her road to recovery.

Bri Lee is one of thousands getting behind the #LetHerSpeak campaign. Photo: Twitter.

Fisher told 10 daily that while he understands why the laws were introduced, they're outdated and need to be changed.

"You have to look at it from a survivor's point of view," said Fisher.

"[Telling their stories] gives them a power that has been taken away from them.  It allows them to control their own destiny."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: Supplied

To speak to someone around issues relating to sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.