New support for victim-survivors of sexual violence

A new free legal service aims to minimise trauma and improve outcomes for victim-survivors of sexual violence if they go to court or decide to make a police report.  

Women’s Legal, Victoria Legal Aid and Djirra will support victim-survivors to protect their counselling and medical records from being used in court and exercise their rights in a criminal trial.  

Djirra will also provide support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim-survivors who want to report sexual assaults to police.  

Studies showing around 90% of violence against Aboriginal women is not disclosed.   

Women’s Legal’s Legal Director Jess de Vries says offenders may try to access what a victim-survivor has told a counsellor or doctor or their protected health information through a subpoena.  

“One of the most common reasons alleged offenders do this is to use this information in the criminal trial to try to discredit the victim-survivor and their evidence,” she said.  

“Of course, many women are apprehensive about reporting sexual violence and taking up criminal proceedings as a result.  

“We hope delivering this service will help change this story.” 

Jess says there are now new laws in place to strengthen the protections around the counselling and medical records being disclosed in a court proceeding. 

“This is a free service for victim survivors of sexual violence who live in Victoria.  

“Our lawyers and social workers will work to ensure that victim-survivors know and exercise their rights in a criminal trial and have what they need during and after the trial as they recover.”  

How the law has changed  

A “confidential communication” is something a victim-survivor of a sexual offence tells a registered medical practitioner or counsellor (this could include counselling notes). 

Changes to the law in 2023 means that in criminal proceedings involving sexual violence, victim-survivors must: 

  • Be notified when someone files an application with the court asking for their information.  
  • Be told about how the law applies to confidential communications and protected health information.  
  • Be advised that they have a right to attend the court hearing about their confidential communications and/or protected health information, and that they may wish to consider seeking legal advice about this.

The changes also make it clear that victim-survivors have a right to: 

  • Appear in this court hearing if they chose to and tell court about whether their information should be used. 

To find out more about our services visit our services page.

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We will reopen at 9am Monday 8 January 2024.


You can contact Victoria Legal Aid for legal support or Safe Steps for family violence support. 


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