My name is Saxon Mullins. Pretty odd one for a woman, I know not many people look down at their infant daughter and say “’Saxon’, that’s her name”, but I am the last out of four children. I think by law my parents had to name me after whatever film was on TV when my mum went into labour, which for my birth happened to be The Bay Boy, a movie I’ve never seen in case I don’t live up to my namesake (or vice versa).
My name was Saxon when I learned to ride a bike and when I read Checkers by John Marsden for the first time and bawled my eyes out. My name was Saxon when I got 15/15 for a speech for English class and rode that high for weeks.
My name was Saxon when I was sexually assaulted at the age of 18. Behind a nightclub in Sydney’s Kings Cross, I became the statistic you might have heard but had never really taken in; I was the one out of five women who will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
Bleeding and with grazed knees I ran back to the safety of my best friend, and jumped on a train while tearfully trying to hold myself together long enough to get home.
Then, my name wasn’t Saxon.
Every decision after you are sexually assaulted is so loaded; you’re pushing a boulder up a hill and it gets harder and harder. Do you tell anyone? Do you go to the police? Do you take it to court? With every answer to each question, your path differs slightly. You’re going up a different hill now but the boulder is still in front of you, blocking your view and exhausting your strength.
During the police process I was the victim of a crime. Sitting in a tiny room at the Kings Cross police station while a very nice detective listens to me recount one of the worst moments of my life. I can still see him slowly two finger typing everything out in excruciating detail. In another scenario it would probably have been funny but the tap-tap-tapping instead became the soundtrack of a rejected film festival entrant that I really didn’t want to be a part of.
During the court process I was not even a victim. I was demoted again to witness. I am labelled a spectator to my own suffering.
When the trials and appeals were all over I was still pushing a boulder, still up a hill, I just no longer knew why.
Having the opportunity to tell my story became my new goal. I believed that my need for justice and understanding could be sated by sharing my journey. I could show the awful reality of the whole process, as well as inform the public about the real issue: consent. I was contacted by Louise Milligan from ABC’s Four Corners program and it felt right to tell my story with a program that I trusted. But we hit a hurdle. In NSW sexual assault complainants have the automatic right to anonymity. However there had been an extra suppression order on my identity which meant it couldn’t be revealed even with my consent.
My high school English teacher once asked me the definition of irony and I had a hard time coming up with a response. Well Ms, I have the perfect example now; in my own rape case I could not tell my story under my own name and my consent does not matter.
Ultimately the ABC had to apply for a NSW District Court order so that I would not be gagged by this suppression order.
Then the kicker – to get this order, the court had to contact the legal team of the man I accused of rape. I had to get permission from the very person I had accused of this horrible thing. They now had my name and identity in their hands. My story had once again been ripped out of its rightful home in my grasp, and given back to the person I had accused of perpetrating this violence against me. At this point my carefully balanced trick of rolling the boulder up the hill became unsteady. Why had I chosen this hill, this boulder? Why did every action I take end in more pain and uncertainty and suffering?
As I write this now, it’s hardly a spoiler to tell you that eventually I was able to tell my own story, under my own name and identity. But that pit stop on the way to freedom where it seemed everything was about to topple back down on me added another layer to the trauma I carry with me. The boulder is smaller now, the hill more of a mound, but it’s still there.
Every survivor deserves the right to tell their story should they choose to do so, but the right to reclaim the narrative is too often is taken out of their hands.
In February the Victorian government quietly introduced laws which silence all survivors of sexual assault whose offenders have been found guilty. This was brought to light after extensive and incredible reporting by Nina Funnell. The #LetUsSpeak Victoria campaign has been formed in partnership with Marque Lawyers, End Rape on Campus Australia and Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy, and aims to repeal these laws.
It is now being reported that not only can survivors in Victoria not use their real names to tell their stories, they are being pushed by the court to do what I had to: ask their rapist for permission. To be granted access to themselves. It is unbelievable that this is something being done in 2020, and yet this is the reality for many survivors in Victoria.
You’ve probably heard about my story before in passing discussions or headlines about consent. Maybe you had your eyes opened to the realities of sexual assault trials, or maybe you wondered what all the fuss was about. She lost the case, get over it. Whatever you thought, it’s yours to do with what you will. And this is mine.
My name is Saxon Mullins, I am kind and generous and incredibly obnoxious about podcasts, and I will never be silenced.
Saxon Mullins is the Director of Advocacy at Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy.
(Editor’s note: the man convicted of Saxon’s assault had the conviction quashed on appeal)
If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.Image: Supplied