CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses childhood sexual abuse and rape allegations.

Australian of the Year and childhood sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame absolutely skewered the Prime Minister’s “daughters” comments following rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins.

The 26-year-old advocate addressed the National Press Club on Wednesday, bringing many in the audience (and at home) to tears with her powerful speech on childhood sexual abuse.

Afterwards, she was asked about Scott Morrison‘s widely-panned comments, in which he said he approached an alleged rape within Parliament House “as a father first”.

“It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience,” Tame said, to applause.

“And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.”

In her speech, Tame also called on media to do better when it comes to covering abuse and rape, particularly in light of recent news coverage.

“Hosts, reporters, journalists, I say to you – listening to survivors is one thing,” she said.

“Repeatedly expecting people to relive their trauma on your terms, without our consent, without prior warning, is another. It’s sensation. It’s commodification of our pain. It’s exploitation. It’s the same abuse.”

She continued: “Of all the many forms of trauma, rape has the highest rate of PTSD. Healing from trauma does not mean it’s forgotten, nor the symptoms never felt again. Trauma lives on in ourselves. Our unconscious bodies are steps ahead of our conscious minds. When we’re triggered, we’re at the mercy of our emotional brain. In this state, it’s impossible to discern between past and present. Such is retraumatisation.”

Tame was groomed and repeatedly abused by her 58-year-old teacher when she was just 15 years old. Her teacher, Nicholaas Bester, was convicted and jailed for the abuse, but while he was able to speak freely to media, Tame was not. She was bound by Tasmania’s now repealed gag laws, which prevented survivors of child sexual abuse to publicly identify themselves.

Her case became the catalyst for the #LetHerSpeak campaign, a project spearheaded by journalist Nina Funnell to change the laws and allow survivors to claim their stories.

The law was changed in 2020, and Tame was named Australian of the Year in 2021 for her work. Since then, Tame said “hundreds” of fellow sexual abuse survivors had reached out to her to tell her their stories.

“Stories they thought they would take with them to the grave, out of shame for being subjected to something that was not their fault,” Tame told the National Press Club.

“Stories of a kind of suffering they had previously never been able to explain. Stories of grooming. I am one of the luckiest ones. Who survived, who was believed, who was surrounded by love. And what this shows me is that despite this problem still existing, and despite a personal history of trauma that is still ongoing, it is possible to heal, to thrive, and live a wonderful life.

“It is my mission and my duty as a survivor and as a survivor with a voice to continue working towards eradicating child sexual abuse. I won’t stop until it does.”

Help is available. If you require immediate assistance, please call 000. If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online.  If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat onlineUnder 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online. You can also reach the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or chat online.