Lisa Wilkson has thrown her support behind Grace Tame after she released a powerful statement addressing the impacts of sexual assault in response to her bong-photo controversy.
The 2021 Australian of the Year made headlines last week after critics uncovered a photo of the then-19-year-old with the large water pipe, commonly used to smoke cannabis.
Ms Tame deleted the image from Instagram, later issuing a statement saying she has always been transparent about the demons she’s faced after being sexually abused by a teacher as a teenager.
Discussing the saga on the Sunday Project, Wilkinson praised the sexual assault advocate for confronting the situation head on.
‘If all of us had everything we did in our teenage years up for comment from everyone, how would we deal with it?’ the veteran journalist said.
Lisa Wilkson (pictured) has praised Grace Tame for handling her bong-photo controversy with ‘grace’
‘And yet she continues to live out her name with grace,’ Wilkinson punned.
Co-host Dilruk Jayasinha said Ms Tame appears to get stronger each time she comes under attack.
‘With each adversity, she is just maintaining dignity,’ he said.
‘It is so impressive. She just keeps powering through.’
The photo showed a 19-year-old Ms Tame sitting on a couch with a large bong smiling with her eyes closed as she played on her phone.
The picture was seized upon by her critics who found it buried in her Instagram feed last week. The image resurfaced just as she was criticised by the Prime Minister’s wife Jenny Morrison for having poor manners.
‘Australian of the Year?’ one of a number of commenters wrote next to the eight-year-old picture on Monday. The image was then deleted by Ms Tame, now 27, following questions from Daily Mail Australia.
Other Australian media outlets also published the bong photo include 7News, news.com.au, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun and Brag Media.
Grace Tame has called out the media for her now infamous bong photo, outlining how being sexually abused as a teenager by a teacher resulted in a path of self-destruction
The former Australian Of The Year felt she had been ‘let down’ by some sections of the media who attempted to discredit her in her eyes
On Saturday, Ms Tame shared a detailed open letter on Twitter where she spoke about how drugs can be a means of escape for victims, and that trauma from child sexual abuse ‘can look like drugs’.
Ms Tame’s letter, which went viral, asserted that media outlets had tried to ‘discredit’ her by publishing the image.
‘To every media outlet who sought to discredit me by publishing THAT photo, although my humour and strength remain intact, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t let me down,’ she said.
‘Not just as an individual, but more so as an advocate of the survivor community.
‘At every point — on the national stage, I might add — I’ve been completely transparent about all the demons I’ve battled in the aftermath of child sexual abuse; drug addiction, self-harm, anorexia and PTSD, among others. You just clearly haven’t been listening.
‘Whilst we must acknowledge the harm that drugs can cause, if we want to have an OPEN and HONEST discussion about child sexual abuse in this country, we must also have an open and honest discussion about trauma and what that can look like.’
Taking to Twitter on Saturday, Ms Tame penned a detailed open letter, which quickly went viral
The controversial photo shows a 19-year-old Ms Tame sitting on a couch with a large bong smiling with her eyes closed as she plays on her phone
Ms Tame’s Twitter thread went onto state that many victims refuse to speak out as they fear the consequences
Ms Tame then went onto explain how child sexual abuse if often different as the offenders are manipulative and sophisticated
In a revealing thread, the Tasmanian resident revealed she felt she was to blame after she was raped at the age of 15
She concluded by stressing the importance of all victims having the courage to tell their story
In her letter, Ms Tame acknowledged ‘we must acknowledge the harm that drugs can cause’, but drug use was a symptom of the fallout of abuse.
Ms Tame said that substances, in many cases of childhood sexual abuse, ‘are PART of the crime’.
‘When the man who abused me first tried to rape me, he used alcohol to stupefy me. I’d only been drunk twice in my life before that,’ she wrote.
‘Perpetrators often use substances in grooming and offending, first to lower inhibitions, and second to build a conspiracy with the target which prevents them from reporting.
‘Survivors fear authorities will zero in on the substance use instead of the wider complexities of psychological manipulation – which are much harder to prove and explain.
‘Drugs feature in the broader story of abuse, during and after. They feed into and compound the many layers of guilt and confusion. Later they become a familiar, go-to means of escape.’
Tame, who was groomed and repeatedly raped by her 58-year-old maths teacher from the age of 15, said for a long time she blamed herself for what had happened.
‘In the years that followed, I beat myself up relentlessly. I thought everyone else around me blamed me too. To cope, I engaged in activities I deemed befitting of a person as worthless as I deemed myself to be,’ she wrote.
Ms Tame’s open letter, published below, came after she initially responded to her widely-circulated bong photo by launching yet another attack on PM Scott Morrison.
She reposted the photo to Twitter with the tongue-in-cheek caption: ‘Alright, I confess, we were doing a cover of ‘April Sun in Cuba’. On the oboe.’
Tame’s reference to the Dragon song was a dig at Mr Morrison who played a ukulele rendition of the 1977 hit during a recent pre-election interview on 60 Minutes.
Mr Morrison raised eyebrows after he whipped out the miniature guitar and played the song in front of his wife and two daughters.
GRACE TAME’S FULL OPEN LETTER
AN OPEN LETTER
To every media outlet who sought to discredit me by publishing THAT photo:
Although my humour and strength remain intact, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t let me down.
Not just as an individual, but more so as an advocate of the survivor community…
At every point — on the national stage, I might add — I’ve been completely transparent about all the demons I’ve battled in the aftermath of child sexual abuse; drug addiction, self-harm, anorexia and PTSD, among others.
You just clearly haven’t been listening.
Whilst we must acknowledge the harm that drugs can cause, if we want to have an OPEN and HONEST discussion about child sexual abuse in this country, we must also have an open and honest discussion about trauma and what that can look like.
It can be ugly. It can look like drugs. Like self-harm, skipping school, getting impulsive tattoos and all kinds of other unconscious, self-destructive, maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Whilst I do not seek to glorify, sanitise or normalise any of these things, I also do not seek to shame or judge survivors for ANY of their choices. For anyone who needs to hear this: it is NOT YOUR FAULT.
There are survivors out there who are terrified of seeking help because they’re afraid they’ll be blamed for what has happened to them. They are afraid they’ll be chastised for their coping strategies instead of being offered support and treated for the cause of their suffering.
And what do you think happens when they see the mainstream media deliberately brutalise survivor-advocates like me for actions I took when I was 19 and still trying to process something I didn’t understand?
I’ll tell you. Their fear is magnified.
Publicly shaming survivors for their past is as low as you can possibly go.
Moreover, in many CSA cases, substances are PART of the crime. When the man who abused me first tried to rape me, he used alcohol to stupefy me. I’d only been drunk twice in my life before that.
Perpetrators often use substances in grooming and offending, first to lower inhibitions, and second to build a conspiracy with the target which prevents them from reporting.
Survivors fear authorities will zero in on the substance use instead of the wider complexities of psychological manipulation — which are much harder to prove and explain.
Drugs feature in the broader story of abuse, during and after. They feed into and compound the many layers of guilt and confusion. Later they become a familiar, go-to means of escape.
By point-mocking a symptom of a bigger picture, you’ve reinforced the imbalance of an already skewed culture. You’ve chosen to punish the product of an evil, not the evil itself.
This is precisely why survivors don’t report. Congratulations.
There are only two possible explanations for why you did what you did: either you’re so irretrievably ignorant of how trauma affects people and therefore didn’t consider the RE-traumatising effects of your actions, OR you are wilfully complicit in perpetuating abuse culture.
I shudder at thought that it’s the latter.
If it’s the former, please allow me to share some insights that might be helpful in the hope that you never do this to an abuse survivor ever again:
In the case of many violent crimes, the majority of us have both the vocabulary to explain exactly what happens should we experience them, and the knowledge of how to seek appropriate help.
Child sexual abuse is very different. Its perpetrators are very manipulative and sophisticated. And children — by virtue of their age — do not have the mental framework to comprehend it. For many survivors, it remains shrouded in mystery long after the contact offending stops.
I didn’t even hear about the word ‘grooming’ until 7 years after I’d experienced this insidious form of psychological abuse. I didn’t know paedophiles operated in a way that is considered ‘textbook’.
I blamed myself for what a 58-year-old man did to me when I was 15. In the years that followed, I beat myself up relentlessly. I thought everyone else around me blamed me too. To cope, I engaged in activities I deemed befitting of a person as worthless as I deemed myself to be.
Shame is embedded in the experience of child sexual abuse. It survives in every part of your being long after the physical acts have ceased. Infused at the unconscious level, you have very little control over it once it’s there. It is a life sentence.
That said, healing, self-love, triumph and total transcendence are all possible. But they require patience, compassion, encouragement and forgiveness. The require ongoing community support.
On that note, is with a swollen heart that I wish to thank the legions of strangers and friends alike from all over Australia who showed up and showed out for survivors by calling out the unnecessary shaming stunt on Monday.
I have never seen anything quite like it…
It means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to many other survivors as well.
Our foundation received a record amount of donations that day, bringing us one step closer to a future free from the sexual abuse of children and others.
Now that’s a story worth publishing…
Grace Tame has a number of high profile fans, notably media identities Wil Anderson and Lisa Wilkinson
The ukelele is the national instrument of Hawaii and Mr Morrison’s playing of one evoked memories of his poorly-timed holiday to the Pacific islands during the nation’s Black Summer bushfires in 2019-2020.
Images of Mr Morrison living it up in Hawaii during Australia’s crisis were a public relations disaster for the Prime Minister.
Her explanation came after her media ally Lisa Wilkinson slammed attacks on the 27-year-old as ‘utterly deplorable.’
The Project host claimed constant undermining of Ms Tame was ‘designed to say to any woman striving for change: step out of line/question the status quo & we’re coming for you’.
Wilkinson has been a vocal supporter of Ms Tame and fellow advocate for survivors of sexual abuse Brittany Higgins for their unwavering campaigning.
She posted a gushing tribute to Ms Tame after she was criticised for giving Scott Morrison a frosty reception at The Lodge in Canberra last month.
‘Thank you for always speaking your truth. Thank you for never wavering from your passionate fight for justice for survivors of sexual assault,’ the media identity wrote on Instagram.
It comes as Immigration Minister Alex Hawke responded to conspiracy theories claiming the bong photo was a ‘hit job’ executed by the Federal government.
‘I saw some people on Twitter start to say the government did it. I don’t believe that at all,’ the senior minister said on 3AW radio on Tuesday.
‘The media have just as much motive in these things and public issues on pursuing people. They do it to politicians and public figures all the time. I don’t think it’s relevant. I don’t think it’s necessary’.
Mr Hawke said Ms Tame shouldn’t be judged for the 2014 image which was discovered in plain sight on her Instagram page over the weekend.
‘Everybody understands Grace Tame’s story and the things that she’s been through,’ the immigration minister said.
Tame was awarded Australian of the Year in 2021 for leading a campaign for a legal change that allowed sex abuse survivors to speak out.
She was groomed and molested by her mathematics teachers when she was just 15.
Ms Tame initially deleted the image after Daily Mail Australia made an inquiry on Monday but has since reposted it to Twitter and received thousands of likes.
The viral image sparked an outpouring of support from the both the Australian public and high-profile figures including comedians, musicians and politicians.
The photo has renewed debate around whether personal use of cannabis should be legalised in Australia, after a 2019 survey found 40 per cent of citizens backed the move.
Richard Denniss, a chief economist at the Australia Institute, took to Twitter to share his two cents on the contentious cannabis debate.
‘The lack of photos of me smoking bongs at 20 is due only to the high cost of film photography in 1990 rather than any shortage of bongs in my life back then,’ he tweeted on Monday night.
‘While I think private photos should stay private, thanks @TamePunk for leading our debates again. Let’s legalise it #auspol.’
Other commentators said the photo showed that marijuana use was commonplace, so prohibition should be overturned.
Many others were quick to jump to the activist’s defence as several hashtags, including #PutYourBongsOut, popped up in her honour.
Some went as far as suggesting the photo had given her more credibility, or made her ‘even cooler’ than before.
Comedian Wil Anderson was among the most outspoken supporters and posted an old photo of himself pictured with a bong as online debate raged.
‘It’s hard but I forgive Grace,’ he joked in a follow-up tweet.
Ms Tame’s now famous ‘side eye’ made headlines after she was giving the prime minister and his wife Jenny at a morning tea at The Lodge before Australia Day (pictured)
Comedian Wil Anderson (pictured) was among the most outspoken of Ms Tame’s supporters and posted an old photo of himself pictured with a bong as online debate raged
Ms Tame (pictured) deleted the image after Daily Mail Australia made an inquiry on Monday
Anderson echoed the support by others by sharing their tweets, including Australian musician Ben Lee.
‘She just keeps getting better,’ the four-time ARIA award winning singer and songwriter wrote.
The Project host Peter Helliar joked the picture could even get Ms Tame a second nomination for Australian of the Year.
The massive wave of support for Ms Tame extended to the world of politics.
‘Putting out photos of the much respected former Australian of the Year partying as a youth is beyond pathetic,’ Darcy Byrne, mayor of Sydney’s Inner West Council wrote.
‘Grace Tame’s manners are fine, it’s the politicians scraping the bottom of the barrel that need to learn about respect.’
Port Phillip deputy mayor Tim Baxter tweeted: ‘I’m the Deputy Mayor and I smoked bongs as a teenager. And I’ve still never been as cool as Grace Tame.’
Alex Turnbull, the son of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed into the national debate.
‘Going after Grace Tame is extremely risky for any Liberal Party members under 40 especially some people in the house and senate. I’ll leave it at that. Don’t start stuff you can’t finish.’
But not everyone jumped to Ms Tame’s defence.
‘Good grief this person was Australian of the year, we need to take a long, hard look at how she was selected and who selected her’, a reader commented online.
Another added: ‘Excellent response by the PM’s wife. Grace is really losing her message in her behaviour.
Ms Tame has been consistently been in the news headlines over the past week, after completing her term as Australian of the Year and delivering a rousing speech at the National Press Club.
Ms Tame was seen giving Mr Morrison a less than friendly handshake with a scowl on her face before throwing him an icy sideways glance (pictured)
On 60 Minutes last Sunday night, Mr Morrison’s wife Jenny offered her opinion on Ms Tame’s now famous ‘side eye’ when greeting them at a morning tea at The Lodge before Australia Day.
Ms Tame was seen giving Mr Morrison a less than friendly handshake with a scowl on her face before throwing him an icy sideways glance.
‘I just found a little bit disappointing, because we were welcoming her in our home,’ Mrs Morrison said. ‘I just wish the focus had been on all the incredible people coming in.’
‘I respect people that want to change things, stand up for their beliefs, and are strong, but I still think there are manners and respect.’
She was asked whether she wanted her daughters to look up to outspoken advocates such as Ms Tame.
‘I want my daughters to grow up to be fierce, strong, independent, amazing people. And I think they can still do that and show kindness to other people and be polite and have manners,’ Mrs Morrison replied.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk