- Tasmanian Australian of the Year 2021 Grace Tame will educate people about the dangers of grooming
- The help and support of family and friends is important to recovery from abuse
- Ms Tame was the first Tasmanian to receive a court order that allowed her to be identified as an abuse survivor
On the day before she was awarded Tasmanian Australian of the Year, Grace Tame ran into the ocean without really thinking.
"Get this — right before the biggest day, when everyone was trying to get hold of me, I went for a jog and then I ran into the ocean at 6:30am with my phone in my pocket," she said.
"That sums me up."
Ms Tame has been recognised as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault and was the first Tasmanian woman to be granted a court order that allowed her to speak publicly about her abuse.
When she was 15, Ms Tame — now 25 — was groomed and raped by her 58-year-old teacher at a private girls' school in Hobart.
Her freedom to speak publicly about the assault followed the #letherspeak campaign, spearheaded by journalist Nina Funnell, who worked with End Rape on Campus and Marque Lawyers to fight a law preventing survivors from speaking out.
Family and community help healing
"The thing that has been so important to Grace's recovery is that she still had a network within her family," said Penny Plaschke, Grace's mother.
"One of the things I remember Grace saying to me was, 'I had so much support'."
"It breaks my heart when I read about other survivors whose families have fallen apart because of the abuse, and the survivor has been left on their own, or their family has not been able to cope with it.
"I get it, I know how hard it is, but the very thing they need is acceptance and understanding."
Ms Tame said simply:
"I have two great parents and great step-parents, and a family full of cousins and uncles and aunts who were all very close, and I've got great friends that I have had throughout my life.
"That is a huge part of it. I am very blessed and very aware of the fact, and this is again one of the main reasons I have been driven to do what we are doing with #letherspeak.
"I've always been surrounded by good stock."
Fire in her belly
Referring to the Australian of the Year awards, Ms Tame said:
"I have identified a gap in our understanding on the issue of grooming. It is a huge issue that we need to talk about, but to break the cycle of abuse we need to break the silence."
Ms Tame planned to work with institutions such as universities, and schools, and with the police to discuss the difficult concept of grooming, to further break down stigmas.
When she was living in the United States, Ms Tame worked with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department helping them to understand how grooming worked.
"It is a long game, and we have to remember that we are in it for the long haul," she said.
What grooming looks like
Ms Tame had confided in the teacher who abused her that she was sexually abused by an older child when she was six.
"What he did was very deliberate," Ms Tame said.
"It is indicative of his evil."
Quoting, in German, from the film Wings of Desire, Ms Tame said: "When a child was a child it didn't know it was a child".
"That is the definition of innocence, and coming back to my experience of grooming — obviously, it is an insidious, ugly thing," she said.
"To do that to a child who is so impressionable and who doesn't know what is going on is particularly evil and cruel.
"This is very common for abusers. They often pick victims who have been abused previously because a lot of work has been done for them.
"It is sick, calculating and menacing."