Prima Facie

Suzie Miller

Prima Facie
Pan Macmillan Australia
26 September 2023

Prima Facie

Suzie Miller

Tessa is a thoroughbred. A young, brilliant barrister. She has worked her way up from a working-class background to be at the top of her game: defending, cross-examining and lighting up the shadows of doubt in any case. Her masterful line of questioning in the courtroom has netted Tessa win after win, freeing men accused of rape and sexual assault. As controversial as it is, this is her job - it's just about the facts and who can game the system.

Working late one night, Tessa falls into a casual relationship with Julian, a coworker, an attorney who comes from an elite, wealthy family. A light-hearted affair, with a man she admires. She begins to wonder if perhaps there is a future for the two of them.

One sickening night, though, Julian makes a choice and Tessa finds herself in a position countless women - one in three - have before her. And she's faced with a gut-wrenching, life-changing decision: will she take the stand to testify about her rape, with the full awareness that the system has not been built to protect her?

Drawn from the internationally acclaimed play, Prima Facie is a propulsive, raw look at the price victims pay for speaking out and the system that sets them up to fail. With breakneck prose and a devastating emotional intensity, this is a novel for our times, by one of Australia's most important writers.


Written as the novelisation of the award-winning play Prima Facie, Suzie Miller delivers a riveting and urgent story of one woman, who represents millions, and the legal system that sets them up for failure.

Tessa is the best criminal defence lawyer in her field. Through years of experience and masterful intimidation she gains victory after victory, freeing men accused of crimes including sexual assault. However, when Tessa herself is raped by a male colleague, someone she thought she could trust and potentially love one day, her whole world is tilted upside down. Can she trust a justice system she knows isn’t built to protect victims like her, a system that does not aim to seek the truth but rather support the person who seems more believable?

Prima Facie is an eye-opening revelation of how restrictive and antagonistic the legal system is towards sexual assault victims whose circumstances do not neatly fit what rape ‘looks like’. The chances of a victim being believed and supported dramatically drop if they were romantically involved with the perpetrator, if alcohol was involved, if they were wearing clothing that others might construe as revealing, if they had previously consented to having sex with the perpetrator, or if they didn’t explicitly say ‘no’ or fight back.

Although she may lose everything she’s worked hard for, Tessa is a powerful and inspirational voice for the voiceless, defying a system favourable to those, particularly men, with power, prestige, and wealth. It’s a system that desperately needs to recognise the complexities of consent and the many variations in how rape takes place, especially when one in three women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lives, and only 1.3 per cent of rape trials end in conviction.

Prima Facie is a raw and visceral story about the cost to survivors who choose to speak out, and the importance of a battle worth fighting.

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