“Onus Is Not On Us”: Grace Tame Says Sexual Assault Victims Shouldn’t Be Expected To Have “All The Answers”
At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia.
Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor Grace Tame told a panel of safety advocates on Tuesday that the "onus is not" on survivor-victims to provide solutions to address violence and abuse against women and children.
"As far as being someone who has to provide the solutions, I mean I am just a lived experience survivor," she said at the National Women's Safety Summit.
The 26-year-old – who has been recognised for fighting to overturn laws in Tasmania preventing sexual assault survivors from speaking out – said she had a platform that most survivors don't have.
"Unfortunately, my own experience of support systems, of the justice system is not a model to refer to," she explained. "I'm sitting here as someone who's somewhat of an anomaly, you know, that I've got to this point being a lived experience survivor to have a platform like I do. That's very rare."
Tame said a holistic approach needs to be adopted, where it's not only survivors who are part of the conversation, but also experts and policy changemakers contributing to the discussion.
She said "the onus is not on us to be the victims of the system, the victims of the crime and then also going, 'We've got all the answers.'"
"We need an approach that is not siloed, we need to be recognising that there are policy and decision-makers, experts, as well as lived experience survivors who need to participate in the discussion."
During the panel, Tame also spoke about better education and information around trauma for young people, citing her own experience of going from "violent relationship to violent relationship" after being molested and raped as a child.
"I wasn't taught about what is a normal trauma response, and how trauma lives on beyond the abuse and can inform our decisions from there on out," she said.
"So I think that, not just as survivors but as a whole community, we really need to be focusing our education around that trauma is ongoing, and certainly I think that would have been helpful in my experiences of reporting to police."
Elaborating on that experience, she said, "One of the things that I found wasn't very helpful was that there was an apparent lack of understanding from the officers taking my statement about the effects of grooming and how I was more likely as a groomed individual to defend the perpetrator."
Tame was one of many speakers at the two-day virtual summit where family safety advocates, service providers and women who have experienced violence or sexual harassment spoke about how the government can better address the issues of violence against women and children.
On Monday Tame doubled down on Prime Minister Scott Morrison for reading out testimonies from sexual assault survivors during his keynote speech at the summit.
"Scott has just finished his opening keynote address at the Women’s Safety Summit in which he appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image," she tweeted. "Gee, I bet it felt good to get that out."
In his speech, Morrison said former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins speaking out earlier in the year has highlighted "longstanding and serious failings in this Parliament House," and since "turned into a conversation about women’s experiences everywhere."
"Australia does have a problem," he said. "There is still an attitude, a culture that excuses and justifies, ignores or condones gender inequality. And that is on all of us."
Now that the summit has come to an end, Australia will be standing by for the government's next move.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.