“A huge part of being a survivor of some kind of abuse or assault is that everybody wants you to shut up. Having my voice amplified within the media all the time makes me feel really good about myself, and it’s given me a feeling of responsibility to use that platform for the right things.”
Over the last 12 months, Bri and Bond University Law Professor Jonathan Crowe launched a public campaign against the use of the 110-year-old mistake of fact defence in the Queensland justice system. According to Bri, the mistake of fact defence allows rape myths to undermine Queensland consent laws and makes it hard for sexual assault survivors to get justice.
“The trouble with the mistake of fact legislation is that it allows any defendant who had an honest or reasonable belief that the complainant was consenting to be acquitted,” she said. “In cases where other complicating factors are present, such as the complainant has language barriers, mental incapacity, takes the freeze response or was intoxicated, it is very easy for the defendant to go free.”
Over the course of the campaign, Bri along with hundreds of the public wrote letters lobbying for mistake of fact defence reforms in the Queensland Criminal Code. Bri described the campaign as being built from hundreds of words, letters and the personal stories of sexual assault survivors.
“We really escalated our efforts in the last two months in terms of the fight against the mistake of fact legislation,” she said. “I do believe in the power of language to shape perception and idea. The language we use to frame issues and tell stories has a huge impact on whether or not change is made.”
The mistake of fact defence reform will make it easier for sexual assault survivors to get justice. Bri has branded the achievement as another win for the Me Too movement in Australia.
Witnessing Bri publicly speaking about her own matter abuse has inspired and empowered other survivors to come forward. Regularly, survivors write to her about their own matters of sexual assault or abuse.
"It is a great privilege to receive such intensely personal and meaningful correspondence,” she said. “A lot of people write to me after reading my book and say that it made them feel empowered to do something in their owns lives — as an author that is pretty much all you can ask for."
Moving forward, Bri will continue to advocate for improvements to the Queensland justice system.
“I am of the belief that our legal system was formulated without women and children in mind,” she said. “We know that in a societal sense young women, pre-teen and teenage girls are often the disempowered and disenfranchised individuals who are the least represented in institutions.
“The legal system is struggling to adapt to private crimes because the evidence that juries expect to see in terms of CCTV footage or DNA evidence isn't present. A lot of the current practices around jury selection and cross-examination are barbaric and re-traumatising for survivors. We need to collectively acknowledge that there is always the capacity for improvement to how the system interacts with its most vulnerable, and the people it is supposed to serve.”