Many people, for good reason, do not wish to be reminded of the most horrific thing that happened to them when they were young. But Grace Tame, 26, has insisted on it.
When Tame was 15, a teacher lured her into trusting him before beginning to sexually assault her regularly after school. After he was released from prison, he discussed the crimes on social media, attempting to downplay their seriousness. Tame, on the other hand, had to keep silent; regulations in Tasmania, Australia, prevented survivors of such crimes from identifying themselves. With the help of a local journalist, Tame challenged that law. The hashtag #LetHerSpeak took off, and the wave of stories it unleashed led to a re-examination of consent culture in some of Australia’s most vaunted institutions. She was named Australian of the Year in 2021.
“I didn’t know that it was going to blow up in the way that it has,” says Tame, but she has no regrets. “I’m unflinchingly determined to continue to expose these evils at every level.” She’s now launching a foundation to try to prevent what happened to her from happening to others, with a focus on education about grooming, the psychological process by which people are manipulated into trusting their abusers. The resulting self-doubt can leave survivors plagued by shame, she says, and thus even more likely to stay silent.
Tame has scolded the media and the government for retraumatizing assault survivors—she declines to use the word victims—by requiring them to keep telling their stories. Yet she knows those stories are worth fighting to tell. “There hasn’t been enough evidence from the lived-experience stories put forward yet for us to really get a clear idea of just how big this is and just how much work we have to do,” she says. “But I’ll do this for the rest of my life if I have to.”