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Grace Tame’s Voice Has Inspired Rallies Across Australia, But It Comes With A Personal Toll
By WH Staff | Nov 23, 2021
Grace Tame’s face is one that is instantly recognisable. Since being crowned Australian of the Year for her campaign and advocacy work, Tame has come to be seen as the voice for survivors. Her story shocked us, but more importantly it served as a wake up call for urgent and immediate action; a reminder that silence is inaction that we will no longer tolerate. In just a few months, the 26-year-old Tasmanian used her platform to promote and encourage important conversations around grooming and sexual assault, and the need for greater education around such topics to begin early – in schools, playgrounds, before continuing in the workplace. But in the retelling of her story, Tame has had to relive the trauma and now, she’s opening up about the personal toll it’s taken on her mental health.
In a recent episode of ABC’s Australian Story, Tame spoke at length about what she’s achieved and the mental load that accompanied such feats. “With this award comes a huge level of media scrutiny, as well as a level of responsibility to represent a particular cause,” said journalist Nina Funnell.
During her time as Australian of the Year, Tame has been witness to numerous injustices. Just this year, we watched with outrage as Brittany Higgins spoke out about her alleged rape in parliament – one that triggered #MeToo protests nationwide – only to see such claims dismissed by the government, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison showing little remorse. Despite exposing the culture of sexism and misogyny that continues to be rampant in Australian politics, little action was taken and we are still yet to see reform to parliament culture. Watching on, Tame refused to stay silent. “If I did not stand up and speak truth to power, which is what I have always done, I would be a hypocrite,” she said.
Since retelling her story in the public eye, Tame has revealed she’s been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that has been made worse by the fact that she has continued to share the details of her trauma during interviews and meeting people. It’s something of a double-edged sword, as Tame’s vulnerability has inspired countless others to come forward and detail their own experiences of sexual assault. As a result, Tame has had to employ a trauma-informed psychologist who specialises in sexual assault counselling to deal with and respond to all the disclosures.
As Tame’s close friend Maddison Cutler explained on Australian Story, “People flock to her, people are drawn to her, because of the way she speaks, the way she conveys her message.” Cutler added, “She’s so fiercely strong whilst being incredibly vulnerable all at the same time, and I think that’s why so many people can connect with her.”
This year alone, Tame has spoken at the Australian of the Year awards, the National Press Club, and at a UN Women Australia event. Even so, the one that stuck with her was that given at St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, the same place where she was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of a maths teacher 43 years her senior. Until August, Tame hadn’t set foot on campus in years.
“For nearly 20 years, from 1992 to 2011, a serial paedophile was able to operate within these walls in plain sight by way of calculated psychological manipulation,” she said to the room of students and staff. “After I reported, even though the police found him with 28 multimedia files of child exploitation material on his computer – including a trophy file of other students, topless – many blamed me for what happened. Perpetrators don’t just groom individuals. They groom everyone in order to get what they want; fellow staff members, parents, friends, extended family: no one is immune to grooming.”
Tame went on to add: “Evil thrives in silence. Silence and inaction. As we know, this institution is no exception. I am one of at least five girls who were targeted, conditioned and exploited here. But for all that I lost here, I have gained it all and more in return simply by being able to share in this moment with you.”
Next month, Tame will launch the Grace Tame Foundation, with the goal to end child sexual abuse and create an agreement between each of the Australian jurisdictions on legal definitions of consent and grooming. The hope is that the voices of survivors continue to be heard and supported.
If you need support or need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for counselling on sexual assault, domestic and family violence. Support is also available on Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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