HARROWING TALE: 38-year-old Stella wants to tell Australia about her father. He is a child rapist, a domestic violence thug and a cold-blooded killer. New laws mean Stella is unable to talk about his abuse on her without a court order.
HARROWING TALE: 38-year-old Stella wants to tell Australia about her father. He is a child rapist, a domestic violence thug and a cold-blooded killer. New laws mean Stella is unable to talk about his abuse on her without a court order.

The secrets she keeps: Why we cannot unmask this killer

He's a child-raping cold-blooded killer with a long history of domestic violence but new laws mean we can't tell you who he is or show you his face. In this exclusive interview, his daughter Stella tells journalist SHERELE MOODY about her fears that he will kill again.

 

HE'S a cold-blooded, heinous and callous woman killer.

He's a vile and abhorrent child sex abuser.

He's a heartless unstoppable domestic violence thug.

He is - without any doubt - one of Australia's most evil monsters.

Soon he will be released from jail, free to walk our streets, prey on our country's little girls, brutalise women and to kill again without remorse.

But government red tape means I cannot tell you who this man is, I cannot tell you the name of the young woman he murdered and I cannot show you the face of the daughter he violated repeatedly for years.

An Australian jurisdiction that once allowed survivors of sexual abuse to freely talk about their experiences has used a sleight of hand to take this right away, forcing them to seek a judge's approval to let them speak.

The new rules came into force on February 7, but it seems only those in legal and political circles were fully aware of the law's consequences - until now.

 

38-year-old Stella wants to tell Australia about her father. He is a child rapist, a domestic violence thug and a cold-blooded killer. New laws mean Stella is unable to talk about his abuse of her without a court order.
38-year-old Stella wants to tell Australia about her father. He is a child rapist, a domestic violence thug and a cold-blooded killer. New laws mean Stella is unable to talk about his abuse of her without a court order.

MARCH 29, 2020: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS

JUST a few short weeks ago, a 38-year-old mother of three young children sent me an emotional message, begging me to tell the story of her father - her rapist, her stepsister's killer.

This woman - who I call Stella - contacted me shortly after receiving shocking news that the man who repeatedly violated her and who killed her sister had won a legal reprieve, meaning he would soon be out of jail.

Sentenced to nine years with parole after serving seven years for six serious childhood sexual violence offences against Stella, Prisoner X managed to convince the Victorian appeal court justices that the child abuse punishment should run concurrently with the 25 years he is serving for the killing of Stella's sister Marie.

Prisoner X's release date was moved from mid-2026 to April 2022 meaning he will serve no time for the crimes against Stella .

Some 23 years ago, Prisoner X slaughtered Stella's sister Marie on a major thoroughfare - only four days before the young woman was to testify in court about the sexual violence he subjected her to for around 15 years.

His crimes included forcing Marie to have sex with animals and repeated rapes in the loungeroom of Stella and Marie's childhood home.

While he was convicted of Marie's murder, he was not punished for the offences of rape, incest and bestiality that he was originally charged with meaning he could have been released on parole in 2018 without being closely monitored under sex offender laws.

This changed when Stella decided to tell police about her own experiences. The case went to court and he was convicted, resulting in him being ordered to serve out the full murder sentence.

I was just hours from finishing my article about Stella, Marie and Prisoner X when I discovered the legislative move that would, unwittingly, allow monsters like this one to walk our streets under a cloak of anonymity.

In February the Victorian Government amended the criminal legislation governing whether survivors could speak publicly about their experiences.

Before this amendment came into effect - media law expert Michael Bradley explains - the criminal legislation drew a distinction between sexual assault cases where a court proceeding was underway and where there was no legal proceeding pending.

Essentially, if a committal hearing or trial had started, the publication of a victim's identity was not allowed, the Marque Lawyers managing partner says.

However, he says the act - before it was changed - did not say what happened after the criminal proceedings had concluded.

As the law once stood, Stella - and other survivors - could give permission to a journalist to tell their story using their own names and photos without having to jump through legal hoops to make it happen.

Now the act requires Stella to seek court approval to speak about her experiences using her own name.

If I print any detail that might identify anyone connected to Stella's case, I could be fined $3300, go to jail for four months or both.

Any newspaper or website that published an article with these details could also be fined.

Stella's story cannot be told in the way she wants - but she is not fazed.

She wants you to know what happened to her and she will join the national LetHerSpeak campaign to have the government lift the veil of enforced legal silence that has fallen on survivors.

 

This man murdered his 26-year-old stepdaughter by shooting her in the head three times. He killed the woman after raping her repeatedly for many years. The woman was to give evidence in court days after he shot her. The killer will be released onto Australian streets in two years.
This man murdered his 26-year-old stepdaughter by shooting her in the head three times. He killed the woman after raping her repeatedly for many years. The woman was to give evidence in court days after he shot her. The killer will be released onto Australian streets in two years.

MAY 9, 1997: THE DAY A MONSTER SILENCED HIS VICTIM

THERE must been a lot weighing on 26-year-old Marie's mind as she drove to work on May 9, 1997.

Raised in a violent and emotionally chaotic home with her much younger stepsister Stella, the sales rep for a large hardware chain had - for more than 10 arduous and terrifying years - endured extreme sexual violence and degradation at the hands of her stepfather - named here as Prisoner X.

He started preying on Marie when she was only nine.

The abuse continued until she was 25.

He subjected her to increasingly degrading and abhorrent acts including forcing her to perform sex acts on the family dog.

Somehow Marie survived even and eventually she broke free from her stepfather's abuse.

For about a year she found peace, forging a loving and strong relationship with her new partner, moving into a secret address and working in a job she enjoyed.

She might have been scared for her own safety, but Marie was nonetheless determined to bring the monster to justice.

On May 13, 1997, she would enter the witness box to tell a court about her stepfather's violence.

"He always said if I left home he would find me and kill me," Marie told police before the court hearing.

Described as being "on edge and very nervous" by her loved ones in the days before court, Marie did everything possible to keep herself safe.

The closer the court date got, the more "agitated, obsessed and paranoid" her stepfather became, even ominously boasting to a relative that he would not "do 20 years in jail because of Marie".

He was determined to shut her down and his first step was hiring a private investigator to find out where she lived or worked.

Court documents show the investigator located Marie and passed the information to his lawyers who in turn told her stepfather.

Over the following days, Prisoner X staked out her office and documented her daily routine.

As she drove to work on the morning of May 9, 1997, he bided his time, sitting behind the wheel of a car he hired specifically for this moment. A car the wary Marie would not recognise.

Armed with a .38 revolver, Prisoner X parked on Marie's route to work and waited for the young woman to come into view.

Marie eased her car to a stop at the intersection of a busy Melbourne street - it was in this brief moment that Prisoner X's prey was at her most vulnerable.

He drove his car alongside hers, stopped the vehicle, wound down the window, raised his pistol, aimed it at Marie's face and coldly pulled the trigger.

The bullet went through her cheek.

The wounded woman slumped over the steering wheel, her car rolling slowly forward before coming to a stop against a street pole.

Prisoner X got out of his vehicle, walked up to her prone body, put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger.

Twice.

As Marie's life ebbed away, he turned the gun on himself.

He survived the suicide attempt, was charged and sent to prison to await trial on remand.

Just months after he killed Marie, Prisoner X married his victim's mother. She was his most avid support, denying to police and the court that he abused her daughter.

She stood by his side until after he was convicted of murder.

"I remember being at home the day that it happened," Stella says, her children's voices chattering happily in the background.

"I was watching the TV and I saw on the news that a woman had been shot and killed by some maniac on her way to work.

"I thought the victim could be Marie because the reporter said she came from a certain suburb and the killer came from where my dad lived.

"So I rang my Mum and asked her what she thought and she told me not to be silly."

Stella's worst fears were later realised when news bulletins broadcast footage of paramedics stretchering the killer from the murder scene.

One of the man's hands was visible as he lay prone on the stretcher.

Stella easily recognised a fading greenish black outline of a rose and scroll on the hand.

"The TV showed them airlifting the murderer on a helicopter and I saw the tattoo," she says.

"I knew for sure at that moment that this was my father. It was his tattoo.

"I rang the hospital and they asked me to confirm my name and then they told me he was there and that really just confirmed my worst fears."

In May of 1998 - around a year after Marie's death - Prisoner X was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years with parole eligibility after serving 19.

In his sentencing remarks, Justice John Coldrey described Prisoner X as being "motivated" by a need to silence Marie.

Prisoner X's decision to kill, Justice Coldrey said, was the "ultimate perversion of the course of justice",

"No society can tolerate an accused person, subject to the operation of the criminal justice system, deliberately taking the life of his or her accuser," he told the offender.

"The gravity of this conduct must be reflected in the sentence imposed."

 

DECEMBER 20, 1979: 'HOW MY FATHER STOLE MY LIFE'

THE countdown to Christmas 1979 was well and truly underway when Stella's mother gave birth to her.

Stella was the fourth - and youngest - child for mum Jane and the man who would become Prisoner X.

The mother-daughter bond was almost unbreakable, with Jane doing everything she could to shield her daughter from her husband's brutality.

"Dad was very physically and emotionally abusive to my mum," Stella says.

"He would say mean things to her and he'd often hit around the face with the back of his hands.

"Mum never complained.

"She always put on a brave face in front of me and my brothers."

Stella was four when her parents divorced - the end of their marriage marking the start of a decade-long nightmare for the youngster.

Threatening to harm one of Stella's brothers if his wife did not sign custody of the girl over to him, the father also kicked his partner out of the family home and replaced her with Sally, mother to 14-year-old Marie and 16-year-old Angela.

Angela and Stella shared bunk beds in one of the small home's rooms, the adults had another bedroom and Marie slept on a couch in the lounge.

In these close quarters, Stella started forging a tight bond with Marie.

"For a while, living with dad, Sally, Marie and Angela was kind of normal," Stella says.

"Marie and I became really close.

"She would take me to school and she would do whatever she could to look after me."

Stella remembers how her father's angry and unreasonable outbursts would turn into flailing fists and feet as he struck the children and his partner for inconsequential reasons.

From regular beatings to verbal abuse and torture, including forcing the kids to stand for hours with their faces against a wall, Prisoner X's violence seemed to know no bounds.

"He started off being verbally abusive and then it became physical," Stella says.

"I remember a lot of times Sally would come home from work and Dad would accuse her of being late.

"He would belt into her - she'd have bruises all over her face and I'd see them on her body when she was getting changed.

"She'd never talk about it."

Stella says Marie endured the worst of the violence.

"He loved humiliating Marie," Stella says.

'She always took his punishment - she never cried.

"It was really hard to watch."

While Stella was fully aware of the physical and emotional attacks, she was too young to know that Marie was also being raped.

Around two years after he took custody of Stella, Prisoner X turned his rage onto his own daughter.

"It was absolute hell," Stella says.

"I loved school but every day I would wish that I wouldn't have to come home.

"He would just hit us if we did something he didn't like - you never knew when it was coming."

 

Stella was the youngest child to Jane and the man who would become known as Prisoner X.
Stella was the youngest child to Jane and the man who would become known as Prisoner X.

FEBRUARY, 1986: 'MY DAD WANTED TO PLAY A GAME - THEN HE RAPED ME'

ON a hot summer's night in February of 1986, eight-year-old Stella was in her bed.

Angela normally slept in the room with her, but on this particular night, she was not there.

"I remember being in bed - I was wearing a nightie and underwear - when Dad came into the room," Stella says.

"The lamp was on.

"He placed one of my dresses on top of the lamp and that made the room darker, but I could still see him.

"He walked over to my bed and sat down and asked if I wanted to play a game.

"Of course, I said 'Yes'."

Excited and delighted by her father's sudden - and extremely  rare -display of kindness, Stella could not wait to hear about the game they would be playing.

"Dad told me to put my legs up," she bravely recalls.

"He pushed them up from my feet so my knees were bent up towards my stomach.

"He started to tickle my legs and I laughed.

"I asked him: 'Why are you doing this?'

"Then his hands were near my underwear."

What followed is too graphic and chilling to publish, but the next 10 or so minutes were terrifying, painful and confusing for the child.

She recalls yelling "It hurts, it hurts" and crying her eyes out, believing he would stop when he saw how badly she was suffering.

He did stop. But not for Stella's sake.

"Shut up or I'll give you something to cry about," he yelled at her, placing his hand over her mouth to muffle the screams of pain.

"After he finished he just got off me," Stella says.

"As he left he took the dress off the lamp.

"I cried myself to sleep - I was in a lot of pain."

The next morning, Stella found blood in her underwear.

She hid the pants down the side of her bed, got dressed and ate breakfast, giving no indication to the rest of the household that anything was out of the ordinary.

In pain and still bleeding, Stella went to school and attended her swimming lessons after class.

Someone at the pool noticed Stella was unwell and bleeding so she was taken to her doctor.

Knowing she needed to protect herself from her father's rage, Stella lied to the doctor and her mother about how she was injured.

Later that day, Prisoner X bought her silence with an ice cream.

It was many months before Prisoner X violated Stella again but the time between the sexual assaults was filled with increasing bouts of physical cruelty and terrifying acts of control.

Prisoner X knew the youngster was scared of the dark so he exploited that fear by locking her under the house or in the garage, leaving her to sit for hours "in the dark surrounded by rats and spiders".

Stella remembers the second assault with total clarity.

It happened on October 3, 1986 - on Marie's birthday.

"I'd asked him if I could make her a birthday cake and at first he said 'No' but eventually he gave in and let me," Stella says.

"That night I went to bed and was lying there awake under the doona.

"Dad came in the room and put a dress over the lamp like he did last time.

"He sat on the bed with his pants unzipped - he asked me 'Do you want to touch this?'."

The abuser stopped the assault when one of the other family members walked into the room.

 

Stella grew up with outbursts of violence from Prisoner X.
Stella grew up with outbursts of violence from Prisoner X.

APRIL 15, 1992: THE FINAL ACT OF CONTROL AND SADISM

PRISONER X's abuse continued until Stella was in Year 7.

Stella recalls the last sexual assault happening late in the evening of April 15, 1992.

She had just come home from celebrating her mother's birthday.

"I had been to Mum's for the weekend and she drove me back to the house," Stella says.

"When we got there, Dad was really cruel to Mum, yelling at her about bringing me home late.

"He dragged my mum from the car by the hair and threw her around the yard.

"I asked Mum if she was alright but she told me not to worry about it and to go inside."

Stella was in bed, trying to sleep when Prisoner X came into her room with a glass of booze.

He stripped off, climbed on top of the youngster and raped her for at least five minutes.

As he left the room, he told the emotionally distraught girl to shut up.

"He said he couldn't handle my crying," Stella says.

About 10 minutes later, Marie came in.

Finding her sibling crying and cowering in fear, Marie turned on the radio and hugged her close.

"Don't say anything. Just listen to the music," she whispered.

In the following months,  Prisoner X and Sally bought a new home with both deciding they no longer wanted Stella living with them.

Stella returned to her mother's care but was still forced to spend weekends with Prisoner X.

After months of shuffling between the two homes, the teenager decided she could no longer face the monster.

Erasing him from her life was - on reflection - easier than expected. Stella refused to go to him and there was nothing anyone could do other than drag her kicking and screaming to his house.

"Dad would ring me after I stopped going there," she says.

"He'd say, 'Why don't you come see me any more?'

"I'd just hang up the phone."

The monster was gone, but the nightmares were not.

"Because I had to go and see him and I was scared about what he might do, I ended up trying to end my own life," Stella says.

"My family always wanted to know why I tried to kill myself but I couldn't tell them - I never told them the truth."

Stella was too emotionally fragile and too traumatised, to continue her education so she dropped out in Year 9.

Not only did she lose her education and any chance at a fulfilling working life, the years of abuse also destroyed Stella psychologically.

She experienced dark days of depressive chaos.

She feared venturing outside the house, living her life in a reclusive shell.

On the rare occasions that she did leave home, she had panic attacks.

The impact on her relationships has been lifelong, she struggles to form friendships and is unable to shake off the deep feelings of worthlessness that most sexual violence survivors report experiencing.

"My sleep is continually disturbed and disrupted by the horrible crimes he did to me in my bed as a child," Stella says.

"A child's bed should be a safe place for everyone, but I feel like this little place of safety is something I missed out on in my own childhood."

As Stella navigated her way from childhood to adulthood, she made some disclosures about the abuse to people she was close to.

She even told police when she was 14, but for reasons unknown the officers never followed through and her father was not charged at that time.

Stella had reached a point in her life where she believed her father would never be held to account, when two years ago a detective contacted her.

He explained that Prisoner X could soon be paroled and without Stella's help there was no guarantee the child rapist turned killer would serve out his full sentence.

 

This 26-year-old woman was shot in the head three times by her stepfather. He raped her repeatedly for many years and killed her days before she was to give evidence against him in court.
This 26-year-old woman was shot in the head three times by her stepfather. He raped her repeatedly for many years and killed her days before she was to give evidence against him in court.

FEBRUARY 14, 2018: FACING THE MONSTER TO KEEP OTHERS SAFE

PRISONER X's 19-year parole eligibility date fell on Valentine's Day in 2018.

There was every chance he would be released, police told Stella.

They explained that because he was not convicted for the sexual assaults on Marie, Prisoner X would not be monitored as a sex offender so he would be free to come and go as he pleased.

Stella says she felt beholden to do the "right thing for Marie", for herself and "for all Australian women and kids".

"I always considered Marie my real sister - not just my stepsister - and she always will be," Stella says.

It's at this point that Stella recalls one of the last conversations she had with Marie and how that left her drowning in guilt and regret.

"Around the time that Marie made her statement to police about Dad, she had reconnected with me because she was finally free of our father," Stella says.

"She had no idea that I'd been sexually abused too but when I told her, she was even more determined to speak the truth to the police.

"Marie did ask me if I could support her by coming forward to police as well, but I was a wreck back then.

"I couldn't even leave the house due to crippling anxiety.

"That was always my one biggest regret in life, maybe if I had've come forward too back then, her life may have been spared.

"She might still be alive."

On April 24, 2018, Stella sat down with detectives and told them her story.

Her witness statement is extremely raw and emotional.

It is a sad litany of vile acts, of absolute degradation and horrific sexual predation.

Even for a seasoned journalist who has covered court and crime for some 25-plus years, Stella's neatly typed 15-page witness statement is traumatising to read and impossible to make sense of, such is the violence recounted there.

The police diligently tracked down witnesses Stella had not seen for decades.

They pieced together every movement Prisoner X and Stella made around the period of the assaults, building a folio of evidence that should convince a jury to convict and thwart the killer is in bid for freedom.

"The police had a very strong case, they even had a doctor from my childhood going to testify on our behalf," Stella says.

Despite the mountain of evidence against him, Prisoner X drew out the legal process by pleading not guilty to incest and gross indecency against a person under 16.

This meant Stella was forced to give evidence in court.

Placing herself in the hands of the prosecutor, Stella bravely relived her father's assaults.

Perhaps it was the truthfulness of her testimony or maybe it was his fear of dying in prison. No one really knows why, but part way through Stella's evidence Prisoner X pleaded guilty to six charges in exchange for the other offences being dropped.

"It was left it up to me to decide if I was happy with that and seeing that he had plead guilty to the most serious charge I was satisfied," Stella says.

The plea was a massive relief, but Stella still had one immense task to undertake - reading her victim impact statement out to the sentencing judge in front of Prisoner X.

A small gold-framed photo of Marie cradled in her hand, Stella told Victorian County Court Judge Peter McInerney about her "miserable and terrifying childhood" that was "awash with constant fear".

"My father threatened to kill me if I ever told anyone what was happening to me," Stella told the judge and her father.

"My body was violated at a very young age and the pain of the crimes, both physically and emotional was terrible.

"No young girl should lose her virginity in such a way.

"As a result of the crimes by my father, I suffer from severe debilitating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a further condition called hyperhidrosis."

More than two decades had passed since Stella had seen her father, but she was determined to seize the moment to make her father understand how deeply he had wounded her.

But mostly, she says she wanted him to know that he would "die unforgiven" and that he would end his life "paying a high price" for the nightmares he imposed on those he was supposed to love and protect.

"As I was reading my statement, Dad just looked at me and his face pretty much said 'Why are you doing this to me?'," Stella says.

"He always played the victim - and this time it was no different."

Judge McInerney sentenced Prisoner X to nine years in prison, ordering him to serve at least seven years before being eligible to apply for parole.

The sentence was to be additional to the life term for murder.

"Being as restrained as I can, this is heinous and outrageous objective criminality committed by a father upon his daughter," Judge McInerney told Prisoner X.

"Such behaviour is seen in our community as not only heinous but egregious offending."

Stella says the sentencing gave her hope for the future.

"The judge was utterly disgusted in him," she says.

"You could hear the disdain in every word that he said.

"The sentence was even better than our legal team expected and now he will be known as a violent sex offender.

"I was elated, I think that I even cheered.

"I cried tears of joy and said to everyone that justice had been served and I can finally go back to being a mum again."

 

In two years, this man, who raped and abused his stepdaughter, will be let out on the streets.
In two years, this man, who raped and abused his stepdaughter, will be let out on the streets.

MARCH 23, 2020: PRISONER X CONVINCES THE APPEAL COURT TO SET HIM FREE

STELLA'S sense of security and relief was short-lived as Prisoner X immediately lodged an appeal, asking for the new release date to be overturned.

He told justices Phillip Priest and Mark Weinberg the new sentence should be served concurrently with the term for murder instead of as additional time.

Both justices accepted Prisoner X's arguments, issuing a new release date of April 13, 2022.

"I was furious," Stella says. "I am still furious."

Aged 74, Prisoner X may now be an old man, but Stella fears he is just as dangerous today as he was when he murdered her beloved sister.

The next two years are but a slight reprieve for Stella, representing a too-short time frame in which she must move heaven and earth to ensure the security of her sons, aged 2 and 5, her seven-year-old daughter and her partner of 15 years.

"The court of appeal judges have left me in a serious predicament - I am fearful for my life," Stella says.

"When he was given seven years' minimum, I at least had the time on my side where he could have died in prison but now he will get out and he will kill me or kill my kids.

"I'm worried so much for my own daughter - this psychopath is likely to do anything."

Cameras are installed around her home, her address is a tightly held secret, she keeps her social media locked down, her name never appears on household bills, her online contacts are minimal and police have a taken out an intervention order meaning he is not allowed to come near Stella or her family.

"But none of this makes me feel safe," she says.

"I honestly feel like I only have two years left to live."

The children, Stella says, know nothing of their grandfather but there will be a time when she has to tell them the truth.

She says she will tell them that facing her father in the courtroom was the hardest thing she has ever done, but that confronting him was necessary for her to heal and to be a better mother.

"I feel the need to be seen, to be acknowledged and heard, something I have not felt in my whole life," she says.

"I am hopeful that by telling my story it will help to heal me in the future but realistically I know that will not happen.

"I will always be damaged."

 

Court generic
Court generic

FEBRUARY 7, 2020: THE LAW CHANGE THAT HIDES A MONSTER

STELLA'S decision to tell her story publicly came just six weeks after the Victorian Government amended the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act to change the processes by which victims of sexual violence can tell their stories to media outlets.

Stella had no way of knowing that if she had approached me in January, I could have legally named her, her father and her murdered sister.

Legal experts and sexual violence survivor advocates say the original Act was somewhat oblique when it came to naming sex abuse victims but that it was significantly easier than it is now.

They say the Act needed changing but the amendments have gone too far.

Put simply, as there was no suppression order made banning the publication of Stella's identity before February 7 of this year, I could have published her name and photo without fear of legal repercussions.

Now the law requires all victims of convicted sexual predators to seek a judge's approval to be named.

"There is no justification whatsoever for ever requiring a survivor to have to go to court to plead for the right to tell their story under their own name," lawyer Michael Bradley tells me.

"The requirement strips them of agency and compounds the trauma survivors have already suffered."

Bradley tells me that a judge is not always better placed to determine whether or not survivors should be able to self-identify.

"Apart from how offensive that is as a concept, it means that they face having to go through another court process to be able to do what they should already have the absolute right to do - retake control of their own story," he says.

"This should be the universal principle, regardless of the stage of the criminal process."

My News Corp colleague Nina Funnell has been lobbying a number of Australian governments since November of 2018 to make it easier for survivors of sexual violence to speak freely.

In Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, NSW and South Australia the rules allow survivors to speak without a court's approval.

All they need to do is give their written consent to the media outlet that is publishing their story.

Until February, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were the only jurisdictions requiring survivors to go to court to earn the right to tell their stories.

As a result of Funnell's LetHerSpeak Campaign, the Tasmanian Government has amended its criminal code to allow survivors to speak out using their own identities after any prospect of a court hearing the matter has passed.

The Northern Territory is expected - in the coming months - to follow suit.

Victoria now has Austraia's toughest legal restrictions governing the ability of survivors of sexual violence being able to speak.

Funnell says that in changing the Victorian law, that state's attorney general Jill Hennessy has "essentially silenced" those survivors who do not have the money, legal resources or fortitude to walk into a courtroom.

"It is frustrating beyond belief that survivors who have already been through the trauma of a court case will now have to go back to court to fight for the right to earn their own name, following a conviction," Funnell says.

"We already know that sexual assault robs victims of power and control.

"To further deny a survivor the dignity of being able to use their own name only exacerbates feelings of powerlessness and trauma.

"Moreover, when the law gags survivors en masse, it increases shame and social stigma associated with sexual assault, while also protecting the perpetrators."

In his review of the Open Courts Act, Justice Frank Vincent recommended that adult victims of sexual assault and family violence should, on the conviction of the offender, be able to "opt for the disclosure of their identity".

Justice Vincent also said where there was more than one victim, the court would be required to refuse permission where the disclosure would reveal the identity of a nonconsenting victim.

Ms Hennessy told NewsRegional the changes to the act were necessary because previously survivors "did not have a clear mechanism to seek the removal of court orders protecting their identity".

She did not respond to questions about the costs and trauma involved of forcing survivors back into courtrooms.

"I want to acknowledge the strength and resilience of victims who come forward and tell their stories - it is an incredibly brave and difficult thing to do," Ms Hennessy says via email in repsonse to my request for comment.

"The changes we have implemented in response to the Open Courts Act Review have reduced barriers for victims to tell their stories.

"We continue to listen to the experience of victims who navigate the justice system and wherever we can, we are committed to supporting them."

 

Stella, now 38, wants to tell Australia about her father. He is a child rapist, a domestic violence thug and a cold-blooded killer.
Stella, now 38, wants to tell Australia about her father. He is a child rapist, a domestic violence thug and a cold-blooded killer.

STELLA WANTS TO BE NAMED AS THE DAUGHTER HER KILLER FATHER RAPED

STELLA'S decision to hold her father accountable for his crimes was truly selfless - all she wanted was justice for her sister and to ensure Australia got to know his name and see his face.

"I decided that if Marie doesn't get to come back, her killer doesn't get to come out of jail early," Stella says.

"He deserves to be known for what he truly is - a cruel and sadistic sex offender."

While Stella achieved her first goal, the second depends entirely on her being able to hire a lawyer to fight for her right to be named as the child her killer father raped.

"This legislation has put me back at square one," Stella says, revealing she was shocked and devastated to know that if she had spoken to me just weeks earlier she would have been able to use her own identity for this story.

"When I was little, I couldn't tell anyone about what he did to me and now I'm at that point of being silenced again.

"Survivors should be allowed to share their truth, to speak their truth and to not have anybody say they cannot do this."

Stella says despite the hurdles ahead she will fight for the right to tell her story in her own way because her story might save another child or woman from her father's violence.

"I believe that the public will be in danger when he is released - he will go on to meet other people, to be around children and women," she says.

"He should not go into our community unknown.

"It's a little bit daunting having to go back to court but I think this is a fight that is well worth winning - for everyone's sake."

The LetHerSpeak campaign will assist Stella in taking her case to court so she is able to use her real name to the Supreme Court of Victoria. If you would like to donate please visit the fundraiser https://tinyurl.com/ycok4tnd to help pay for Stella's legal fees.- NewsRegional

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody has multiple journalism excellence awards for her work highlighting violence in Australia. Sherele is also a 2019 Our Watch fellow and the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the Australian Femicide Map.

*For 24-hour domestic and/or sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.



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