Australian of the Year Grace Tame has called for compassion, after it emerged that Brittany Higgins was hospitalised following “months of sustained political pressure”.
“Love, love, LOVE each other,” Tame said on Twitter.
“We may never truly know the depth of another’s pain, but that isn’t necessary to show compassion for a fellow being.”
Both women are, of course, survivors of sexual assault, and both women have bravely gone public with their stories in order to enact change. However, Brittany Higgins has faced an additional – and enormous – pressure on account of her alleged rape taking place within Parliament House.
Her account has triggered protests, inquiries, weeks of Senate Estimates hearings, and an investigation as to whether the Prime Minister’s Office “backgrounded” journalists in order to cast doubt on her story. (Scott Morrison‘s own chief of staff conducted that internal investigation, and ultimately declined to make a finding – which, make of that what you will.)
Higgins has since been hospitalised for her mental wellbeing. Her partner, David Sharaz, told The Guardian that she was recovering and “receiving the support she needs after months of sustained political pressure”.
While it’s unclear the circumstances of how and why this story was made public the fact is that since The Guardian broke it, it’s now being reported everywhere. Given Sharaz’s quote, it may be that it was done so with Higgins’ consent in order to raise awareness of the personal cost in going public. PEDESTRIAN.TV made the decision to cover on account of that broader conversation, despite initial misgivings.
“The burden on survivors is intolerable,” a tweet from Marque Lawyers said, which just about sums it up. “That is just a fact.”‘
It’s not just survivors who find themselves at the forefront of activism, retraumatising themselves over and over to try and prevent what happened to them from happening to anyone else, that faces this burden.
It’s every survivor who chooses never to speak up, out of shame or fear or uncertainty or any other reason under the sun.
It’s every survivor who does speak up and isn’t believed, or is told they must be mistaken, or finds themselves facing an impossible justice system without much hope.
It’s every survivor who sees their attacker continue to live life, while they’re left trying to pick up the pieces of their own.
The burden on survivors is intolerable. Take this as a reminder not to add to it.
If you would like to access support around sexual assault, you call call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, or the Kids Helpline (ages 5 to 25) on 1800 55 1800. If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.