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Grace Tame: The Story of Australia’s Most Famous Sexual Abuse Survivor

Grace Tame

Grace Tame became famous after she received the “Australian of the Year” Award in 2021. She didn’t win it because she won a Gold Medal at the Olympics or invented something. She won it because she showed incredible bravery in coming out and sharing the dreadful story of the sexual abuse that happened to her during her teenage years. She became the figurehead of the #MeToo movement in Australia and in this post, we will find out more about her incredible story.

The Grace Tame Story

How did Grace Tame’s sexual abuse start?

Grace told that her nightmare started when, as a 15-year-old anorexic girl with low self-esteem, her 58-year-old teacher saw her when she was late for school after a doctor’s appointment. Her classmates had gone on a field trip, so Nicolaas Bester, her math teacher, invited her to wait in his office.

Little by little she opened up and shared details of her eating disorder, Bester became her confidant. He even gave him a key to his office, saying she could go there if he ever needed a break.

Over the next three months, as Grace continued to place her trust in him, he gradually began to isolate her from other people in her life. He undermined the advice of the treating doctors and encouraged her to deal with her anorexia on her own, with his help. He began to measure her body in his office and advise her regarding her weight.

Gradually her trust in him grew, damaging the support of her family and the professionals involved.

Then began a horrible stage of preparation and desensitization. He suggested that Grace should draw her nude figures so that she could come to terms with her body image issues.

How did Grace Tame’s parents react to her relationship with Nicolaas Bester?

Contact between Grace and Bester was temporarily thwarted when Grace’s parents expressed concern about the amount of time Grace spent with him and the fact that he had the key to her office. But before long, Bester came back and kept suggesting that Grace complete a nude sketch of herself as therapy.

When she relented and produced the drawing, Bester stepped up his evil plan. She had previously revealed that she had been sexually abused when she was six years old, by an older boy who had locked her in a closet to abuse her.

He did the same, locking her in a dark warehouse and ordered her to undress. 

He continued to force her to perform sexual acts for the next six months. Grace Tame’s life got out of control when she turned to alcohol and self-harm in an attempt to ease her pain. Her parents, feeling helpless, reached out to the school and counselors to try to help, but were unaware of the true source of her distress.

Meanwhile, Bester continued to torment her with stories of what happened to unfaithful women or assure her of silence with suggestions that he would lose his job and that it would be her fault.

In the end, it was Grace herself, in an incredible act of bravery, who freed herself from the prison in which Bester had trapped her. She approached another teacher and told her story. Thankfully, the teacher believed her and straightaway went to help her.

Was Nicolaas Bester punished for his crimes against Grace Tame?

Bester tried really hard to submit “evidence” to prove that Grace Tame’s behaviour towards him was sexually provocative and it was she wo seduced him into indulging in sexual relations with her. Thankfully, Bester was found guilty of the heinous crime of “having a sexual relationship with someone under the age of 17”.

During the trial, Grace Tame’s mother said: “The self-harm scars on my daughter’s body attest to persistent sexual abuse, not sexual intercourse. We must not disinfect what happened.”

Shockingly, he was released after just serving 18 months out of his 30 month prison sentence.

Was Nicolaas Bester after his prison term? 

No, on the contrary, he went back immediately to his pedophilic ways. He was charged with producing exploitative child material and spent another four months in jail in 2016.

He reveled in his time in prison, saying he met some quite decent people and took time to study more thoroughly to be ready for a real change.

Then, to add insult to injury, he gave several interviews, including one with ex-feminist, now #MenToo advocate Bettina Arndt (who is famous for her view that the high incidences of sexual assault and rape on Australian college campuses are fabricated fiction by feminists.)

What did Nicolaas Bester say in his interview with Bettina Arndt?

In the interview, Bester talked about how much he “lost” because of the sex abuse revelations. He said: “I lost my job, I lost my home, I lost my marriage, I lost my status in the community, I lost absolutely everything. It was a devastating time for me.” Shockingly enough, he didn’t just stop at trying to paint himself as a victim, he also went on to downplay his crime. He said:”If you’re having sex with a woman and she’s 17 today and it’s a minute to midnight and she’s 18 tomorrow, then tonight is illegal and a minute after midnight, when she’s 18, it’s legal.”

He conveniently forgot that sex with adults without consent is also illegal.

To make matters worse, Bettina Arndt made this surprising remark in Bester’s defence:

“I wonder if there is room in this conversation to talk to young people, particularly girls, about behaving sensibly and not exploiting their seductive power to ruin men’s lives.”

How important is Grace Tame’s story?

Grace Tame’s voice not only sheds light on the devastating consequences of child sexual abuse, but also on the even broader issue of coercive control. Nicolaas Bester ticked off all the checkmarks of an abuser. He isolated and manipulated her, used the power imbalance in his favour and coerced Grace Tame into having sexual relations with him.

What did Grace Tame say in her speech?

Here’s a transcript of Grace Tame’s speech during the Australian of the Year award function in 2021:

I lost my virginity to a pedophile. I was 15 years old. Anorexic He was 58 years old.

He was my teacher. For months he groomed me and then abused me almost every day, before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn’t know who I was.

Publicly, he described his crimes as “astonishing” and “enviable.” Publicly, I was silenced by law.

Not anymore. Australia, we have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to be done in many areas. Child sexual abuse and the cultures that allow it still exist.

Grooming and its lasting impacts are not widely understood. Predators manipulate us all: family, friends, colleagues, strangers, in all classes, cultures and communities. They thrive when we fight each other and arm all our vulnerabilities. Trauma does not discriminate. It also doesn’t end when the abuse itself does.

First Nations, people with disabilities, the LGBTQI community and other marginalized groups face greater barriers to justice.

Every voice matters. Solutions are born from all of us.

Grace Tame and Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the 2021 Australian of the Year award ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra on Monday, January 25, 2021 (Sydney Morning Herald).

A male teacher abused me, but one of the first people I told was also a teacher and he believed me.

This year and beyond, my focus is on empowering survivors and education as the primary means of prevention. It begins with a conversation. We are all welcome at this table.

Communication builds understanding and understanding is the foundation for progress. The lived experience informs the structural and social change.

When we share, we heal.

Yes, talking about child sexual abuse is uncomfortable, but nothing is more uncomfortable than the abuse itself.

So let’s redirect this discomfort to where it belongs: at the feet of the perpetrators of these crimes.

Together, we can redefine what it means to be a survivor.

Together we can end child sexual abuse. Survivors, be proud, our voices are changing history.

Eleven years ago, I was in the hospital, anorexic with atrophied muscles, I had a hard time walking.

Last year I ran a marathon. We transform ourselves as individuals and as a community.

When I was first informed, I was embarrassed and ridiculed by embarrassment.

But now my truth is helping us reconnect. I know who I am: I am a survivor, a proud Tasmanian.

I remember him towering over me, blocking the door. I remember him saying, “Don’t tell anyone.”

I remember him saying, “Don’t make a sound.”

Well, listen to me now, using my voice, amid a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced!

Let’s make noise, Australia!

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