CONTENT WARNING: This story touches on the subject of sexual assault and may be distressing for some readers. If you or someone you know needs help or advice, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. If you need help immediately, please call 000.
Twenty-six-year-old sexual assault survivor Grace Tame has been named the 2021 Australian of the Year for shining a light on child sexual abuse and the warning signs of grooming.
Hailing from Hobart, Tame is the first Tasmanian ever to be named Australian of the Year after speaking about how she was groomed and repeatedly abused by her 58-year-old maths teacher, who was found guilty and jailed for his crimes, when she was 15.
During the emotional Australian of the Year Awards ceremony that took place on Monday night, Tame declared her victory was "for all survivors of child sexual abuse", stating that she would use her platform and the year ahead to focus "education as a means of prevention".
"Discussion of child sexual abuse is uncomfortable. But nothing is as uncomfortable as abuse itself," she said.
"I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic. He was 58, my teacher. For months, he groomed me, then abused me 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’. Publicly, I was silenced by law. #LetHerSpeak helped give me a voice. Campaign creator—Nina Funnell, campaign partners, the 16 other brave campaign survivors: thank you.
“Together, we can redefine what it means to be a survivor. Together, we can end child sexual abuse. Survivors, be proud. Our stories are changing history.”
Tame also spoke on the importance of believing survivors when they open up about what they have experienced, and the difference it can make to a person's life.
"I was abused by a male teacher. But one of the first people I told was also a male teacher. He believed me," she said.
"I remember you towering over me, blocking the door. I remember you saying, ‘don’t make a sound’. Well hear me now, using my voice, in a growing chorus that will not be silenced.
"We do transform as individuals, and we do transform as a community… I know who I am. I’m a survivor."
If you or someone you know needs help or advice, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. If you need help immediately, please call 000.