Sarah Monahan is campaigning to reform the Tasmanian law that prevents sexual assault survivors from being identified. Picture: Supplied
Sarah Monahan is campaigning to reform the Tasmanian law that prevents sexual assault survivors from being identified. Picture: Supplied

Star rallies to end ‘absurd’ Tassie law

Former Hey Dad! child star and sexual abuse survivor, Sarah Monahan has joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign for sexual assault law reform in Tasmania.

The 41-year-old who lives in Palm Beach, Florida, said the Tasmanian laws which prohibit media outlets from naming sexual assault survivors - even with their full consent - are "absurd".

"I had no idea that was a thing," Monahan said. "Victims are normally already silenced by their perpetrators. To have the government punish them for speaking up is revictimisation."

In March 2010, Monahan publicly disclosed that she had been sexually abused on the set of Hey Dad! by Robert Hughes, the actor who played her on-screen father. The abuse did not happen in Tasmania which is why Monahan could choose to be named in media. The disclosure encouraged other women to come forward.

Sarah Monahan spoke up in 2010. Picture: Christian Gilles
Sarah Monahan spoke up in 2010. Picture: Christian Gilles

Hughes was subsequently arrested in London in August 2012. He was extradited to Australia and in April 2014, he was convicted of 10 sexual and indecent assault charges against girls in the 1980s. Hughes was sentenced to six years in jail.

In 2016 Monahan published a book about her experiences.

"Writing (my book) Allegedly was the best therapy I could ever have. Going to court doesn't let you tell your story. It's so fragmented and distorted" Monahan said. "Being allowed to tell your truth in your own words is hugely important to healing and recovery.

"I think survivors in Tasmania should be able to speak because it's important to put into your own words what happened to you. It's taking back your truth, your power, and your right as a human to have your own voice."

The #LetHerSpeak campaign for law reform is a collaboration between End Rape On Campus Australia, Marque Lawyers and News Corp.

Yesterday, news.com.au published the story of a gang rape survivor from Burnie, who is unable to speak out using her real name, because of Tasmania's sexual assault gag laws. Two of the woman's perpetrators were charged and found guilty over the 1993 Christmas Day attack.

The woman - who was 16 at the time of the gang rape - says that the gag law which prevents her from being named is "cruel and almost insulting".

Sarah Monahan has joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign. Picture: Supplied
Sarah Monahan has joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign. Picture: Supplied

"When I was a teenager, I was required to tell my story over and over again at multiple trials," she said.

"Back then, it was an open court and gawkers and random members of the public could come in and watch me tell what happened to me. My identity was never protected.

"Burnie is a small town and news gets around quick. Pretty much everyone knew I was that girl it happened to.

"Now, as an adult I'm told that survivors lack the mental capacity to understand the risks of speaking out publicly. But the irony is I've already had to speak out publicly, just not on my own terms."

The woman plans to appeal to the Supreme Court for a special exemption, allowing her to be identified. If she is successful, she could become the first woman in Tasmania to be granted such an exemption and a GoFundMe has been set up to help pay for legal fees.

Last week the Tasmania's Attorney-General, Elise Archer, released a discussion paper on Section 194K of the Evidence Act, calling for submissions from the public.

Other celebrities to previously join the #LetHerSpeak campaign include Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano, author and human rights activist Tara Moss, and comedians John Cleese and Camilla Cleese.

More than 5000 Australians have signed a petition for Tasmanian law reform and a recent poll of 1300 Mercury readers found that 92 per cent of responders support the proposed changes.

 

If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available by calling 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 7732. You can donate to the #LetHerSpeak GoFundMe here

Sarah Monahan is a child. Picture: Supplied
Sarah Monahan is a child. Picture: Supplied
Sarah Monahan says there is immense value in being able to tell your own story. Picture: Christian Gilles
Sarah Monahan says there is immense value in being able to tell your own story. Picture: Christian Gilles

OPINION: Act now and make a change

OPINION: Act now and make a change

OPINION: Lismore City Council mayor Isaac Smith

Nurses and students to lead climate strike

Nurses and students to lead climate strike

Strike to descend on Magellan Street in Lismore next week

OPINION: Proud patron of Parkinson's Support Group

OPINION: Proud patron of Parkinson's Support Group

OPINION: Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin