Grace Tame on how sexual assault survivors can share their story with people they trust
This article discusses sexual assault.
If you’re currently in distress, please head to 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for support.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, and you haven’t told anyone about what happened, you’re probably feeling pretty isolated. It’s not easy opening up to people around you, and you could even be worried about what they’ll say, think, and do after you tell them. That’s why we made this video with the help of Grace Tame, the 2021 Australian of the Year.
While her abuse was occurring, Grace felt alone. Eventually she opened up to another teacher at her school, who said he believed her without hesitation.
“It was a pivotal moment of validation, acceptance, implicit belief,” she said, “and it was the catalyst that allowed me to move forward to the next step because I had solidarity. I had at least one other person in my corner to enable me to move forward.”
But something Grace also makes clear is that sharing your story is something that needs to happen on your terms. It should only happen when you feel comfortable and safe doing it.
Here’s a few things we learned:
Think carefully about who you want to talk to about your experience. It should be someone you trust deeply, like a friend, family member, teacher, or doctor. In the video, Grace mentions that mental health professionals are good people for survivors to talk to about their experiences. One reason for this is that they are generally bound by confidentiality laws.
This means that they won’t tell other people about the things that you talk to them about. However, in some cases where you’re at risk of serious harm, mental health professionals may be required by law to notify the police about your situation. If you talk to a mental health professional, they can tell you more about confidentiality and what it might mean for you.
Sharing your story can be daunting, but it can also be a very positive experience. Grace told us that after she opened up to a teacher at her school, she felt heard and validated. She said ‘when you disclose you are releasing the truth, which is the very thing that enables us not only to reconnect with those around us, but reconnect with ourselves.’
If you want to share your story, you don’t have to share every detail of what happened. That might be especially helpful if there are still parts that are uncomfortable for you to talk about. You can talk about certain parts, you can give a brief overview, or you can just reach out to people you trust and tell them how you’re feeling in general.
After you open up about your experience to someone, it’s normal to feel sensitive or raw. Spending time outdoors, expressing yourself creatively, and spending time with family and friends are all forms of ‘self care’ that you can do to make sure you’re on a healthy path towards recovery.
What can I do now?
If you’re currently in distress, or if you feel the need to share your story with someone urgently, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for help.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted and want to read about ways you can get help and heal, click here.
If you’re thinking about taking action against someone who sexually assaulted you, read our article here.