The 26-year-old rape survivor who spearheaded the #LetHerSpeak campaign, Grace Tame, has just been announced as Australian of the Year for 2021.
Her bravery to speak out and the campaigning which followed led to Tasmania’s sexual-assault victim gag laws to finally be reformed, meaning survivors can now share their stories.
“Grace has demonstrated extraordinary courage – using her voice to push for legal reform and raise public awareness about the impacts of sexual violence,” the Australian of the Year awards panel announced.
— AusoftheYearAwards (@ausoftheyear) January 25, 2021
Tame an emotional speech upon receiving the award, the ABC reports.
“All survivors of child sexual abuse, this is for us,” she said.
“I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic. He was 58, he was my teacher.”
Tame began to be groomed from the age of 15 by her maths teacher, who would often encourage her to stay back at his office after school.
In 2011 her teacher was eventually jailed for having a sexual relationship with an underage student (a crime which has since been renamed for what it is: sexual abuse) and for possessing child exploitation material. In 2016 he again went to jail over child exploitation material.
But things were still messed up. The law allowed her teacher to freely boast about his crimes on social media, but it would’ve been a criminal offence for Tame to even identify herself as a survivor.
“Publicly he described his crimes as ‘awesome’ and ‘enviable’,” Tame said in her speech.
“Publicly I was silenced by law. Not anymore.”
In 2017 she teamed up with journalist Nina Funnell to launch the #LetHerSpeak campaign, which would ultimately lead to legal reform in Tasmania.
The movement went on to work with many more survivors, leading to legal reform in the Northern Territory and Victoria, too.
Congratulations to #GraceTame who has just been announced Australian of the Year!! What a huge moment this is for Grace, but also for all survivors of sexual assault in the community. Well done Grace!! It's a privilege to have worked on #LetHerSpeak 4 u & all survivors! #AotY https://t.co/sW4sNxK76k
— Nina Funnell, Journalist & creator of #LetHerSpeak (@ninafunnell) January 25, 2021
Almost 10 years on from when she was first raped, and after several years of work, things are finally getting easier for suvivors.
“I’m really determined to encourage and normalise the act of speaking out, because lived experience informs structural change and social change,” Tame told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tame’s story became the catalyst for change. Thanks to her, alongside other survivors and the lawyers and journalists with whom they collaborated, Australia is slowly progressing towards being somewhere where abusers no longer have more power to speak than survivors.
Help is available.
If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.
If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.