If you haven’t watched the speeches by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins at the National Press Club, make the time to watch them in full.
It’s not enough to read media coverage. Most of it utterly failed to understand the difference between sensationalised political attacks and unmasking public intuitions that erase victims and protect perpetrators while claiming to do the opposite.
Both women were very clear – they are not politicians and they are not political weapons to be used against politicians. They want the political institutions that fail to protect women and children to stop announcing everything and doing nothing.
Brittany Higgins ripped the mask off the so-called National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children. It isn’t a plan. As Ms Higgins said, it’s “largely a collection of statistics describing the problem, filled with warm sentiments and platitudes” with no targets, no strategy and no recognition that, after ten years, the “plan” has achieved almost nothing.
Grace Tame wasn’t having a dig at Morrison when she revealed she was asked not to saying anything “damning” about the Prime Minister before the election. She was demonstrating how institutions mirror the grooming and controlling tactics of abusers.
It’s also worth noting that both women talked about the torrent of abuse they’ve received over the last year. This was barely noted in any commentary on their speeches. Two women spoke publicly about being raped and were subjected “to judgement, to vitriol, to political hit jobs and online hate” (Brittany Higgins) and being “re-victimised, commodified, objectified, sensationalised, delegitimise, gas lit, thrown under the bus by the biased, mainstream media, despite my inclusive messaging” (Grace Tame).
No one commented on this. Not because people didn’t believe them, but because everyone accepts this is an expected response to publicly disclosing rape and abuse.
This didn’t just happen in the dark corners of the internet. It was mainstream and came from well-paid members of the commentariat.
That it happened, where it happened and that it is so normalised proves that victim blaming is still toxically pervasive in all our public institutions.
We need investment in primary prevention that works right now, as well as working for the future. We need long-term programs to change men who are already violent.
We need widespread, evidence-based prevention education for children that is focussed on what will keep them safe, not what will be politically saleable.
We need First Nations people in charge of programs to prevent and address violence in First Nations communities.
We need targeted prevention programs for men who prey on women with disabilities, migrant women, and single mothers.
We need education for vulnerable girls and women so they recognise the early signs of controlling behaviour and know how to respond.
We need crisis response beyond and outside police because police are too often part of the problem instead of being the solution.
We don’t need more announcements, reviews, inquiries, or slogans. We need change. And we need it now.