Australian of the Year Grace Tame has revealed that suicidal thoughts forced her to call a suicide prevention hotline weeks ago – after receiving the award threw her into the spotlight.
When Ms Tame received the honour on January 25 she detailed her remarkable fight for justice in an emotional speech, explaining how she was abused by her maths teacher at just 15-years-old.
On Wednesday the sexual assault survivor and activist admitted constant interviews and speeches since she was crowned had ‘re-traumatised’ her to such an extent that she could not shake thoughts of self-harm.
‘A few weeks ago, I experienced a rock bottom crash, the constant re-traumatisation from re-reading my past and speaking about it in the media came to a head,’ Ms Tame said at the Business Chicks event on Wednesday, 9Honey reported.
Australian of the Year Grace Tame has admitted the pressure of telling her story and reliving dark moments from her past led to suicidal thinking – forcing her to call a suicide prevention hotline
‘I experienced a rock bottom crash, the constant re-traumatisation from re-reading my past and speaking about it in the media came to a head,’ Ms Tame has said
Alone at home, Ms Tame admitted she began to obsess about suicide and ‘couldn’t see past it’.
‘But I could see my phone right beside me on the bench. So I called Lifeline.’
Ms Tame says there is ‘no handbook’ for navigating the strain of what comes with being Australian of the Year – especially when it means reliving her past trauma to help create change.
‘On more than one occasion, I’ve stepped off the stage I was just speaking on, and not been able to see properly because of the emotional strain of plummeting into past darkness.’
Ms Tame has been thrust into the spotlight ever since January 25 – at times entering politically-charged debates.
Grace Tame (left) with Shelly Horton, who interviewed her for Business Chicks and 9Honey on Wednesday
Ms Tame criticised the appointment of Amanda Stoker to the role of Assistant Minister for Women, pointing to Ms Stoker’s past campaign against changes to consent laws.
The Australian of the Year also hit out at prime minister Scott Morrison accusing him of ‘dismissing her’ when she spoke to him at an event in January about the need for a permanent taskforce to tackle sexual abuse.
‘He dismissively insisted that such infrastructure already existed and functioned well,’ Ms Tame said.
Ms Tame said although it is difficult to continue talking about trauma and abuse, she is determined to keep having ‘raw conversations’ to encourage change to ‘education frameworks’ and ‘legal frameworks’.
She is determined to help create a future where sexual abuse survivors are ‘believed by default the first time’.
Grace Tame has been a passionate and articulate speaker on sexual abuse reforms. She is pictured addressing the National Press Club in March, 2021
She credits friends, family and ‘the whole survivor community’ for supporting her and the cause of ending childhood sexual abuse.
Ms Tame was just 15 when she was suffering from anorexia and became the sexual target of her maths teacher, more than 40 years her senior.
She had first confided in 58-year-old maths teacher Nicolaas Bester about when she was molested at the tender age of six by an older child, hoping for help and guidance.
Telling him about when an older child had forced her into a cupboard and told her to undress before she was molested, the predator then saw an opportunity to pounce.
‘He then introduced the actual sexual abuse by recreating that scene that I had described to him of my childhood trauma,’ she recalled.
Bester locked Ms Tame in a cupboard at Hobart’s elite St Michael’s Collegiate Girls’ School where he then sexually molested her for the first time.
From there, Bester then groomed the young Ms Tame and exposed her to films which glorified relationships between young women and older men.
Ms Tame and the Prime Minister in January, when she was named Australian of the Year
He would also isolate her from her family and friends saying she would overcome anorexia alone.
‘He would tell me the things that he perceived I wanted to hear, like, ”you are beautiful, you don’t need your mother, you don’t need your father. You can beat your illness on your own. You are so intelligent”.
‘He would be showering me with praise, putting me up on a pedestal. But if ever I got too much confidence or I was building enough strength to potentially see the abuse for what it was, he would take me down, he would just tear shreds off me.
‘I remember I was really upset and I asked him, ”do you think I look fat?” And he looked me up and down. He said, ”you could do with some more exercise.”
A brave Ms Tame then reported the rapes to the school and to the police which eventually saw Bester locked up for two-and-a-half years’ jail.
Upon his arrest, Bester was found in possession of 28 pieces of child pornography.