Grace Tame’s powerful plea to parliament
Australian anti-sex abuse campaigner Grace Tame has appeared at South Australia’s Parliament House as politicians moved to make an important change to the wording of a child sex abuse law.
Under the bill, introduced on Thursday, Section 50 of SA’s Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 would change the wording of the offence from “unlawful sexual relationship with child” to “sexual abuse of a child”.
The nature of the offence would not be changed.
The former Australian of the Year said the change would be a significant step towards eliminating debate and confusion.
Ms Tame, a child sex abuse survivor, said the original wording implies mutual responsibility, consent, and diminishes the gravity of the offence.
“Words hold immense weight,” she said.
“The previous terminology also gave scope for the sexualisation and adultification of boys and girls in a particularly dark, twisted context.
“Our legislation must reflect the unequivocal seriousness of this crime, which is never a child’s desire, but instead a perverted fantasy projected onto and into them through a process of grooming.”
SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher introduced the bill into the upper house on Thursday afternoon.
“Although this a short and relatively straightforward bill, it is an important one,” said Mr Maher in his address.
“The decision to make this heading change is the result of the tireless work and campaigning of Miss Grace Tame.”
Ms Tame was sitting in the public gallery at the time.
“The changing of the language of this offence in South Australia makes sure the offence accurately reflects the nature of the offence,” said Mr Maher.
“This bill makes a simple change that makes a powerful message about our opposition to child sexual abuse.”
The Grace Tame Foundation pointed out there are eight different definitions of “sexual intercourse, the age of consent to sex, consent, and grooming” across the states and territories, with eight different sets of punishments.
SA was one of the jurisdictions, as well as the Northern Territory, Queensland, and the ACT, in which their laws against child sex abuse use the words “engaging” or “maintaining” a “sexual relationship.”
“Softened wording doesn’t reflect the gravity of the crime, it feeds into victim-blaming attitudes, eases the conscience of perpetrators and gives license to characterise abuse as romance,” reads a statement on the Foundation’s website.