The young woman at the centre of growing calls to strip Bettina Arndt AM of her Australia Day honours has described revelations that the social commentator has, for decades, been widely misrepresented in media as a ‘psychologist’, ‘clinical’ psychologist’ and even a ‘doctor’ as “highly dangerous” and “incredibly ironic”.
It follows the publication of an extensive investigation published by New Matilda on January 28.
In a video interview released today on New Matilda’s Youtube channel, Grace Tame, now aged 24 and living in the United States, has labelled Ms Arndt’s false portrayal as not only inaccurate but “highly dangerous”.
Ms Tame was aged 15 in 2010, when she was groomed and then repeatedly sexually assaulted over a period of six months by her teacher, Nicolaas Bester, aged 58. Bester was convicted and jailed for the rapes, and also for possessing 28 pieces of child pornography. He was later sent back to prison for producing child exploitation material after boasting on Facebook about the rapes of Ms Tame, describing the abuse in graphic and lewd detail.
In a sympathetic 17-minute interview with Bester uploaded in 2017, Ms Arndt accused Ms Tame of engaging in “sexually provocative behaviour” adding that school girls “should not exploit their seductive powers to ruin the lives of men”.
The video interview sparked widespread outrage at the time. That anger was re-ignited last month after Ms Arndt was awarded an AM in the Australia Day honours, with Ms Tame telling news.com.au she opposed Ms Arndt being awarded an AM.
“Honouring someone who actively defended a paedophile on a public platform is a blatant example of the protracted, systemic moral corruption that still hampers our society,” Ms Tame told news.com.au.
“We will not let such a clear case of rewarding bad behaviour deter or enfeeble us. It is precisely this manner of injustice that strengthens our collective courage and motivation as survivors to share our experiences.”
In her video interview with New Matilda, Ms Tame said Ms Arndt’s false promotion as a psychologist, clinical psychologist and doctor was ironic, and dangerous.
“It’s incredibly ironic that victims so often get accused of lying and now it’s become apparent that Bettina has been lying for decades,” Ms Tame said.
“It’s a pretty big concern because people put a lot of stock in the opinions and advice of people who are supposedly experts.
“She’s going around… calling herself a professional, registered psychologist. People take the words of people like that as gospel and don’t think to question it because they don’t think they have to.
“It’s very dangerous. It’s highly dangerous.”
Ms Tame said she had “no interest in name calling” or “vitriol” and would be “more than happy to have a constructive conversation” with Ms Arndt in the interests of education and information.
Ms Arndt has strongly denied deliberately misleading people about her qualifications, although she has conceded the cover of her 2009 international best-selling book The Sex Diaries falsely described her as a “clinical psychologist” and a “psychologist” with 35-years experience. She has also conceded that she often did not correct media if they falsely described her, because it would take up too much valuable time in interviews, and because she had “better things to do”, like running campaigns defending the rights of men.
Over the weekend, Ms Tame also renewed her calls for Ms Arndt to be stripped of her Australia Day honour, with a Facebook post on her personal page headed, ‘A Call To Action’.
“This issue is not about individuals. It is not about the Governor General. It is not about the honouree. And it is certainly not about me. It never has been.
“It is about something much greater: the very reason I ever sought a voice in the first place. It is about the ongoing corrupt culture of abuse of power.
“That one of the highest honours in our country was bestowed on a person who has persistently acted as a vocal agent of this corrupt culture – while misrepresenting their professional credentials for decades – shows just how much work there is yet to be.”
Ms Tame detailed a long list of bullet points, outlining the case for why Ms Arndt should be stripped of her AM.
Ms Tame also took aim specifically at Ms Arndt’s representation of the abuse she suffered as a school girl.
“[Ms Arndt] ‘grossly misrepresented me and the details of my case, describing me as a ‘provocative teenager’, falsely claiming to have read ‘all the facts’.
“Those words are nowhere in Justice Helen Wood’s six-page comments on passing sentence. This document is publicly accessible. It does state, however, that I had been diagnosed with anorexia, was vulnerable and emotionally fragile.
“It states that my abuser agreed, in a court of law, to taking advantage of a vulnerable child.
“It also states that as a result of the abuse I was isolated from my support network and did not know how to extricate myself.”
Ms Tame said Ms Arndt “publicly mocked one woman’s harrowing account of rape, describing it as ‘regret sex’” and noted that that in the interview with Bester, Ms Arndt allowed him to “excuse [his]possession of child pornography”.
Ms Tame then issues a direct appeal to the people responsible for awarding Ms Arndt an AM.
“There is no honour in hatred. There is no honour in willingly victimizing and shaming innocent, vulnerable individuals. There is no honour in championing a cause that comes at the expense of another.
“The upshot of celebrating individuals who minimise such heinous crimes as paedophilia and rape, is the protracted perpetuation of victim-blaming and abuse itself.
“It reinforces our collective ignorance of the truth, which results in apathy and inaction.
“Not only does this have deleterious consequences for individual lives, it casts a dark shadow over our national identity. It undermines our values of community, strength and progress.
“The cost is immeasurable but it is also reparable. Mistakes can be corrected.
“And so, to the powers that be, I appeal to your humanity. I implore you to see reason and ask that you consider reversing your actions.”
*Ed’s note: Thanks to Grace Tame, for her patience and courage; Hobart-based videographer Ashley Bartholomew for his expertise; and as always to Marque Lawyers, who keep us out of trouble, more or less.
• Do you have information you want to share with New Matilda in relation to our ongoing investigation into Bettina Arndt AM? You can contact us by email here, or via Signal, Telegram or Whatsapp on 0407 555 328.
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