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AMAZING GRACE | Sexual assault survivor uses her voice to make a difference

Gareth Parker
Article image for AMAZING GRACE | Sexual assault survivor uses her voice to make a difference

Advocate for survivors of sexual assault Grace Tame has been named Australian of the Year.

When she was 15, Grace Tame was groomed, and raped by her 58-year-old maths teacher, who was found guilty and convicted.

The 26-year-old, has since lead the fight to overturn a law, preventing sexual assault survivors from speaking out.

Speaking with 6PR’s Gareth Parker this morning she said she wants all survivors of child abuse to speak up.

“It’s obviously really difficult to talk about, but it’s even more difficult to go through,” she said.

“We need to shift the shame away from survivors and point it in the direction of the perpetrators of these crimes.”

She described her story as “one of survival.”

“I’m using my voice to help others, and it’s that domino effect of positive change, every time a survivor speaks out it encourages somebody else to speak, and that’s how we make a difference in the world.”

She plans to continue the conversation about child sexual abuse in the future and hopes to further educate the community.

“We need to put a heavy focus on education around these issues,” she said.

“Looking at ways we can reform the structures in our society to better support survivors of these issues as apposed to predators.

“There are so many structures still in place in our society that actually enable predatory behaviour.”

She is one of four women who have taken out the top honours this year.

Indigenous elder Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr won Senior Australian of the Year, and 22-year-old Isobel Marshall won Young Australian of the Year,

While Kenyan immigrant Rosemary Kariuki took out Local Hero of the Year.

Click play to hear the full interview. 

Read her powerful speech below.

I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15. Anorexic. He was 58.

He was my teacher. For months he groomed me and then abused me almost every day – before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn’t know who I was.

Publicly, he described his crimes as “awesome” and “enviable”. Publicly, I was silenced by law.

Not anymore. Australia, we’ve come a long way but there’s still more work to do in a lot of areas. Child sexual abuse and cultures that enable it still exist.

Grooming and its lasting impacts are not widely understood. Predators manipulate all of us – family, friends, colleagues, strangers, in every class, culture and community.

They thrive when we fight amongst ourselves and weaponise all our vulnerabilities.

Trauma does not discriminate. Nor does it end when the abuse itself does.

First Nations people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQI community and other marginalised groups face greater barriers to justice.

Every voice matters. Solutions are borne of all of us.

I was abused by a male teacher but one of the first people I told was also a male teacher, and he believed me.

This year and beyond, my focus is on empowering survivors and education as a primary means of prevention. It starts with conversation. We’re all welcome at this table.

Communication breeds understanding and understanding is the foundation of progress. Lived experience informs structural and social change.

When we share, we heal.

Yes, discussion of child sexual abuse is uncomfortable but nothing is more uncomfortable than the abuse itself.

So, let us redirect this discomfort to where it belongs – at the feet of perpetrators of these crimes.

Together, we can redefine what it means to be a survivor.

Together, we can end child sexual abuse. Survivors, be proud, our voices are changing history.

Eleven years ago, I was in hospital, anorexic with atrophied muscles, I struggled to walk.

Last year I ran a marathon. We do transform as individuals and as a community.

When I was first reported I was shamed and ridiculed by shame.

But now my truth is helping to reconnect us. I know who I am – I’m a survivor, a proud, Tasmanian.

I remember him towering over me, blocking the door. I remember him saying, “Don’t tell anybody.”

I remember him saying, “Don’t make a sound.”

Well, hear me now, using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced!

Let’s make some noise, Australia!

If you or anyone you know needs help with sexual assault or domestic violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

(Photo: Sydney Morning Herald.)

Gareth Parker