Currently, a whopping 1 in 5 Australian children experience sexual abuse. Rather than be punished, perpetrators are often getting away with their crimes, many of which are protected by outdated and inconsistent legislation.
It was what Australian activist and advocate for survivors of child sexual assault Grace Tame faced herself when she was groomed at the age of 15 and repeatedly sexually abused by her 58-year-old teacher Nicolaas Bester.
“The man who abused me was convicted of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17’,” she said in her recent speech at the Press Club.
“In other jurisdictions, this exact same offence was called ‘the persistent sexual abuse of a child’. This former implies consent, while the latter reflects the gravity and the truth of an unlawful criminal act committed against an innocent, vulnerable child-victim.”
Language matters, and Tame is on a mission to reform language that minimises, sanitises or romanticises rape and sexual violence. Through the Grace Tame Foundation, Tame is running a crowdfunder to change offences like these to be called for what they are – ‘persistent sexual abuse of a child’ across the country.
“Piece by piece, we must correct the narrative and take control from abusers who have for so long sought solace in our systems and institutions that shield them from the full extent of what they’ve done,” she said in the speech.
In 2020, the #LetHerSpeak campaign, created and run by survivor advocate Nina Funnell, led to an overhaul of gag-laws in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Victoria. As a result of the campaign, the Tasmanian Government retitled the offence of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17’ to the ‘persistent sexual abuse of a child’.
Tame wants every state and territory to adopt the best practice model by totally removing all language that sanitises the sexual abuse of children. With only Victoria and Western Australia succeeding in this so far, there’s much work still to be done.
So, how can you help? Well, one easy thing you can do is to donate to the Grace Tame Foundation, which, as of writing this, has already raised $75,661 towards the cause. Donations will be used to help the foundation continue to lobby for structural reform. Working with lawyers, academics and #LetHerSpeak founder Nina Funnell, the foundation will work to dismantle the systems and institutions that oppress and gaslight survivors.
“We all have a role to play in preventing and responding to sexual violence,” Tame writes on the donation page. “We all have a role to play in shifting attitudes and believes which enable perpetrators and gaslight survivors.”
You can donate to the Grace Tame Foundation here.