Dismantling grooming and making the community a safer place for survivors of sexual abuse to come forward are among the top priorities for Australian of the Year Grace Tame.
Grace Tame will confront “heavy topics” and wants to dismantle the system of grooming used by predators as 2021’s Australian of the Year.
- 26-year-old Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year for her advocacy for survivors of sexual assault
- Ms Tame says the ‘heavy topic’ of child sexual abuse has to be discussed in the community
- She will prioritise confronting the grooming and psychological control techniques used by predators
When she was just 15 years old, Ms Tame was groomed and sexually abused.
Ms Tame went on to fight for reform to Tasmanian laws that prevented survivors of sexual abuse from speaking publicly and self-identifying.
As Australian of the Year, Ms Tame told RN Breakfast she wanted to highlight the risks and damage of grooming as well as other forms of psychological control and abuse that perpetrators commit.
“We’re pretty across the idea that the physical components of sexual abuse [and] of violence are bad but it’s when we start talking about grooming, people don’t really understand this psychological manipulation aspect that characterises a lot of these crimes,” she said.
She added that in domestic violence situations, coercive control was also something that needed to be highlighted.
This grooming and psychological control caused the greatest long-term impact on survivors of sexual abuse, Ms Tame explained.
“That programming; that manipulation of your mind has the most lasting impact on individuals,” she said.
Grace Tame’s full Australian of the Year speech
She said the toll of grooming went beyond victims and could affect the families, friends and communities of victims for years.
“[What] I’m really determined to shed light on is the grooming and really break it down and dismantle it,” Ms Tame said.
She said she hoped to raise awareness in the community of the red flags and warning signs of grooming.
Ms Tame says using her voice for good has been fulfilling
Ms Tame said finding a voice as a public figure, after her experience, had been challenging but regenerative for her.
“When you are able to find your voice and then use it for the greater good, I mean, that’s the ultimate,” she said.
“It’s incredibly difficult but I’m very fortunate in that I always have had a team of supporters around me, my family, my mum, in particular, my friends and the Tasmanian community and people like [journalist and campaigner] Nina Funnell, who are just relentless powerhouses.”
Grace Tame said she wanted the community to talk about the ‘heavy topic’ of sexual abuse.(ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)
She said she wanted the community to participate in the conversation and gain a greater understanding of abuse and the structural issues that allow abuse to continue.
“What I really want to encourage people to remember is that even though this issue is a heavy topic, and therefore it’s very difficult to talk about, it’s never going to be as difficult as the abuse itself,” Ms Tame said.
Still more work to do to shift blame to predators
The results of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse laid bare the extent of historic child sexual abuse in Australia and made recommendations to stop the same happening in future.
But there was much more work still to be done to shift attitudes and responses to child sexual abuse, said Ms Tame.
“Look, well, it hasn’t done the job because children are still being abused and that’s the bottom line,” she said.
“We really need to focus on shifting the shame; shifting the blame back in the direction that it belongs: towards predators.”
Grace Tame initially won Tasmania’s Australian of the Year award in October 2020.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)
The way that blame can be shifted, she said, was by the community becoming a safe place for survivors of abuse as well as bystanders and witnesses to come forward and talk about it.
She said survivors of sexual abuse could move the community forward.
“It’s our stories that drive progress, it’s our stories that bring us closer to the truth so that we can fill in our gaps in our understanding of these things,” she said.
“Lived experience is vital, it informs social change, but it also informs structural change.”