Government gags paedo priest's victims
Victims of notorious convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale are among those who have lost the right to self-identify in the media, as have dozens of other clergy abuse victims and other survivors in Victoria.
Under new state laws - quietly introduced in February - victims can no longer speak to media under their real names, in any case where the offender has been found guilty.
The #LetUsSpeak campaign was launched yesterday to petition the changes and funds are being raised to support individual victims to take their fight to court.
The new laws also apply to all past cases meaning that countless victims who have previously spoken to the media to push for inquiries and reforms have now lost that right.
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The group of now censored survivors includes three of Victoria's most high profile and vocal clergy abuse survivors who were assaulted by different paedophiles, all of whom were convicted.
The three men - all aged in their 50s - have been identified dozens of times in the past and scores of other survivors have come forward as a result of their advocacy.
Peter* is one of the men affected. As a child he was groomed and abused by an infamous convicted Australian paedophile and Catholic priest who we now can't name because that could identify Peter.
"First you're silenced by the abuse, then by the church. Now you're silenced by our own laws" said Peter. "Silence is a killer. It means you've got no control again."
Peter is currently working on a book due out next year, but under the new laws, that book cannot be published containing his real name, unless he is granted a court order - a process which could cost him thousands of dollars. He has now joined the campaign and is supported by the GoFundMe.
"The church already does this - they drag everything out, hoping you'll give up. And a lot of people will."
A second extremely high profile clergy abuse survivor, Andrew* from Ballarat, has also previously been identified "hundreds of times" in the media, but has now lost that ability to speak out.
"You're taking away my basic human right" he said of the new gag laws.
"I started being vocal about it in the 1990s because I wanted the abuse to stop happening to other children. I also wanted to make sure that other survivors got the help, care and support they needed."
As a result of Andrew revealing his identity, several of his classmates came forward and the Christian Brother responsible was found guilty of abusing multiple children.
"I realised very early on that putting a face to a name helped get the issue traction," said Andrew.
"I have a right to speak out openly about crimes which happened against me. I have a right to talk about institutions that covered it up. That's critical. What gives anyone the right to take that away?"
A third man, also abused by a notorious convicted paedophile says he is "shocked" by the legal development.
"I told the media early on, 'You can use my name and my face, and I have nothing to hide," said the man who now must remain anonymous.
"For a male to go public and say 'I was sexually assaulted by another male, and it wasn't my fault, I'm not to blame, I have no shame here', was a powerful thing for others to hear."
The three men all say that the law benefits perpetrators and undermines the vital work survivor advocates have been doing in the community.
The changes to the law occurred when politicians were amending another legal problem which had been discovered.
Dr Judy Courtin is a Victorian lawyer and advocate representing victims of institutional abuse.
"For a victim-survivor of sexual assault to have a voice is critical. A fundamental element of justice is to be able to speak the truth. This new legislation is not only confusing, but astounding," said Dr Courtin.
She added that the Victorian Government had been a "forerunner" in addressing other areas of institutional abuse, but the new legislation was harmful.
"These new provisions are a serious retrograde step which can only further punish victims. What is going on?" Dr Courtin said.
The Victorian Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy said, "I am aware of the concerns raised by victims and advocacy groups and have asked the Department of Justice and Community Safety to urgently look at whether further changes are needed."
We've read the legislation and parliamentary speeches and it's clear that nobody in parliament bothered to read what they were voting on. The amendments achieved the opposite of what the government said they would do. Definitely incompetence, nobody would design such a mess. https://t.co/fdRmLbKeTM— marquelawyers (@marquelawyers) August 26, 2020
In no other jurisdiction are survivors expected to pay for a court order to be able to self-identify in the media.
Nina Funnell is the creator of the #LetUsSpeak campaign. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe.
This article was supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.
Originally published as Paedophile's victims have been gagged