26 September 2023

Stories of assault to live after death

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Under new legislation the families of deceased sexual assault victims are to be able to share their loved one’s story without fear of breaking the law.

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the current Victorian law prohibited public identification of sexual assault victims who were deceased, and there was no clear pathway for families, or the media, to have that prohibition lifted.

“This prohibition has been in place for decades,” Ms Hennessy said.

“It’s not right and we’re taking the steps needed to change it,” she said.

“The Justice Legislation Amendment (Supporting Victims and Other Matters) Bill 2020 will give people wishing to speak about a deceased sexual assault victim a mechanism to do that legally – by obtaining a court order.”

“Without this change there is no way to legally, safely share stories which identify a deceased person as a victim of sexual assault.”

Ms Hennessy said the interim measure would give people the protection they needed while further work was done on a long-term solution.

“We have not imposed any additional restrictions in relation to deceased victims and would not do so without consulting with their families,” she said.

“The advice from experts and advocates has been clear – these reforms are complex, we need to take time to get it right.”

She said any changes to the law must consider the wishes that victims expressed before they died.

“[A] person’s right to privacy about one of the most difficult and painful things that may happen in their lives shouldn’t evaporate because of their death,” Ms Hennessy said.

The Attorney-General said her Office would continue to work with families and advocates to deliver meaningful long-term reform to support the victims of sexual assault.

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