As Australia still reels from shocking allegations of rape and cover-up culture in parliament, Australian of the Year Grace Tame was hardly surprised. Just 26-years-old, Tame has continued to use her voice to dismantle the system of grooming used by predators, after she was groomed and sexually abused by her 58-year-old teacher at a private girls’ school when she was just 15-years-old. Rather than stay silent, Tame fought for reform to Tasmanian laws that prevented survivors of sexual abuse from speaking publicly and self-identifying and her advocacy and relentless quest for justice has only helped others do the same.
But at the National Press Conference, Tame spoke at length about the rape allegations that have been lodged by a former Liberal staffer. These are the same allegations made by Brittany Higgins, who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a senior male colleague in a minister’s office in 2019. The news stunned the country and saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison address the press only to use the phrase “as a father” in his initial response. At a time when the country was looking for leadership and accountability, we instead received an address from a Prime Minister seemingly unable to empathise.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Tame said: “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.”
She added, “And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.”
Tame warned journalists to tread carefully when dealing with survivors of abuse. “Just because I’ve been recognised for my story does not mean it’s fair game anywhere, anytime. Listening to survivors is one thing, repeatedly expecting people to relive their trauma on your terms without our consent, without prior warning, is another.”
“It’s sensation. It’s commodification of our pain. It’s exploitation. It’s the same abuse.”
Tame added, “Grant us the respect and patience to share them on our terms rather than barking instructions like: ‘Take us back to your darkest moment’ and ‘Tell us about being raped.’”
After being recognised for her work, Tame is on a mission to eradicate child sexual abuse and, as she suggests, it begins first by listening to survivors. “The more details we omit for fear of disturbance, the more we soften these crimes, the more we shield perpetrators from the shame that is resultantly misdirected to their targets,” she said.
“It is my mission and my duty as a survivor and as a survivor with a voice to continue working towards eradicating child sexual abuse. I won’t stop until it does.”
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