'They have already paid enough' - calls for no fees for sexual abuse survivors who want their automatic name suppression lifted

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

Brodie Joyce said she was sexually abused by her ex-stepfather for 11 years.

“I can’t remember the first instance where it happened. I just remember it like gradually building up. And then there was a period of three years when it was intense like basically every day and that was when I was like 13 to 16," she said.

“I was brought home and home-schooled. He worked from home as well, so it was like 24/7 access and that’s what he wanted anyway."

At 21, Brodie said it got to a point where she didn’t want to put up with it anymore, reporting the abuse to Wellington police. 

Her abuser pleaded guilty to charges of abuse from over several years and was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison.

“I knew that what I experienced had galvanised me into being a certain person and that I want to do something with what I've experienced and help other people. And it’s just made me realise that’s what I want to do with my life,” she said.

She has set up an advocacy service, Fight Sexual Abuse New Zealand , which pairs sexual abuse survivors with advocates that have experienced abuse for support.

“I just had the idea of if people can disclose then they can talk to someone who's been through similar circumstances and talk like friends then that could help them talk about the abuse which is really healing,” she said.

It’s hoped the advocates will be able to help the disclosers on their path to getting support, whether that’s through counselling, police or other support agencies.

Making it harder to be able to talk about it if that’s what they want to do is just prolonging that silence

—  Brodie Joyce

To share her story, Brodie had to get a ruling to lift her automatic name suppression. It’s a statutory prohibition for sexual abuse complainants that’s given to thousands of people in New Zealand every year. It was introduced to protect them.

“I understand some people they want to keep it quiet 'cause it’s their experience and that’s obviously 100 per cent fine. If my name suppression wasn’t lifted I probably wouldn’t be in a good place.”

But the process requires legal fees. Brodie was first quoted up to $4000, but negotiated the fee to be lower due to her advocacy work.

“People who've experienced sexual abuse, they are silenced during that abuse, you know, like if it's historical, and making it harder to be able to talk about it if that’s what they want to do is just prolonging that silence even more,” she said.

She’s calling for the process to be free, and for victim support to communicate to survivors they have a choice over their name suppression some months after the trial or sentencing.

They have already paid enough, it should not cost them financially to have the name suppression lifted

—  Auckland HELP executive director Kathryn McPhillips

Auckland HELP executive director Kathryn McPhillips agrees, saying it’s “outrageous” sexual abuse survivors have to pay to have their name suppression lifted.

“They have already paid enough, it should not cost them financially to have the name suppression lifted,” Ms McPhillips said.

Ms McPhillips said society is in a time of transition with more people wanting to have their name suppression lifted.

“The current process really assumes that most people would want that name suppression to stay in place forever.”

Lawyer Nikki Pender said over the last few years, more sexual abuse survivors have consulted her, asking how they can get their name suppression lifted.

“It is a very profound moment for many of them but is a very important time and the difficulty now is getting a process that works for them comfortably,” she said.

Ms Pender said court victim advisers should be given more responsibility, and could replace the need for lawyers in non-contentious suppression removal cases.

“When you do need legal counsel, when it is objected to for example, legal aid should simply be available,” she said.

Ms Pender said the Government could remove the cost through an amendment of the Legal Service Act.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he wants to investigate all possible options.

“We need to find a way to do that and it shouldn’t be a barrier to somebody who wants that simple procedural step taken,” he said.

Mr Little said the Government could “do a lot better” with its support of sexual abuse complainants in court.

“There is a need to professionalise victim support for victims of serious crime so they’ve got court advocacy right throughout the process. And when they do get to the point where they wanted to lift suppression, name suppression of themselves, that they can do that easily and effectively,” he said.

Where to get help:

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