The Project host and political commentator Peter van Onselen has accused Grace Tame of ‘shaming him’ during a fiery exchange over Twitter about their past experiences with sexual abuse.
The former Australian of the Year is an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and is a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a school teacher.
The Project host wrote a piece for The Australian last year, where he said a teacher had tried to sexually assault him on a year 8 school trip in 1989.
‘To be very clear from the outset, I was not sexually abused, I am one of the lucky ones. But only just,’ he wrote.
The debate on Thursday night quickly escalated after it began when Prof. van Onselen responded to a post by another professor who had argued with her GP over him not wearing a mask.
Grace Tame and Peter van Onselen have engaged in a fiery exchange over Twitter about their past experiences with abuse
Tame responded to van Onselen’s tweet directed at a professor who he has shared a combative past with on social media
Prof. Van Onselen accused the woman, Professor Gemma Carey who works at the Centre for Social Impact, of being a ‘pain in the arse’.
Professors van Onselen and Carey were involved in a legal row last year after she commented on an old picture of van Onselen and his wife being chummy with former Attorney General Christian Porter who had been battling accusations of historical sexual abuse.
They resumed their Twitter spat on Thursday night when he responded to her tweet saying: ‘When your long term family GP decides to ban you from their clinic is that a sign you’re a complete pain in the arse’.
That is when Ms Tame chimed in.
‘When you victimise a vulnerable person, that’s a pretty good sign too,’ the former AOTY replied.
The two then engaged in a heated discussion, with van Onselen digging up old legal wounds that started when the professor had insulted his wife in the past.
‘That’s how I felt when as a survivor myself of child sexual abuse (he was convicted) she accused me of being a threat to my wife,’ the journalist responded to Tame.
‘Unfortunately you then helped her raise money when I had the temerity to ask her to apologise. Thanks for all your support.’
Professor Gemma Carey sparked a legal row with a nine word tweet about an old picture of Christian Porter (left) and his university mates Dr Nick Coastworth (centre, left) and Professor Peter van Onselen, centre right with wife Ainslie, centre
A legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Gemma Carey (pictured with husband Ben O’Mara) made her nine word comment on the pic
Van Onselen objected to Professor Carey’s tweet directed at him and his wife from several years ago
The Project host objected to Tame helping Professor Carey with fundraisers in the past after he felt victimised by her.
Ms Tame then fired back.
‘If you’re going to tell me your story Peter, I’ll listen. I’ve got all day. We both know what you wrote in The Australian about being nearly abused,’ she fired back.
‘I was molested at 6 and raped more times than I care to tell you. If there’s more I don’t know, let’s hear it.’
She then deleted that tweet and replaced it with another, accusing van Onselen of lacking integrity and ‘co-opting’ the stories of other victims.
‘He was convicted, but not of crimes against you. Co-opting other survivors experiences is a whole new low, mate,’ she said.
‘If you’re going to tell me your story Peter, I’ll listen. I’ve got all day. We both know what you wrote in The Australian about being nearly abused,’ Tame fired back
‘Especially to undermine an actual paedophilia and multiple rape survivor. I’m not denying the trauma of what you went through, just your integrity and intent.’
An incensed van Onselen shot back, saying it was not her place to be demanding he share more details of his own trauma.
‘Sorry I haven’t been prepared to be public about the real details of what happened to me. Not everyone wants to fully share,’ he replied.
‘You have made me say this which is incredibly distressing but there you go. The police knew of three other boys he raped who didn’t want to testify. I was one of them. Please stop.
‘Thank you for deleting that tweet I responded to where you downplayed what happened to me,’ Ten’s political editor said.
‘Leave me alone,’ she replied, before attempting again to end the argument.
‘Peter. You poked fun at Gemma. I came to her defence. Then you leveraged your trauma, repeatedly, to provoke me.
‘You know full well what you are doing. You started the whole thing. Take responsibility for your actions.’
Van Onselen ended up sharing details of his abuse that were ‘incredibly distressing’, before Tame told him to ‘leave me alone’
The very public argument then continued as Ms Tame shared a screenshot from his column about his schoolboy experience in which he said ‘let me be very clear from the outset, I was not sexually abused’.
‘I was going off your own words, Peter. You are responsible for when and what you publicly disclose, not me. I ask again that you please leave me alone now,’ she added.
Prof. Van Onselen then responded: ‘As I said I didn’t want to share my experience, but your attempt to shame me was so triggering I couldn’t let that stand, so I have had to do so. As I asked, please stop’.
The ugly Twitter battle finally ended when Tame accused him of ‘manipulating this entire situation’.
The disagreement saw hundreds of replies from shocked Twitter users, some of who took Ms Tame’s side in the dispute.
‘He keeps using his experience to justify his attacks on other people,’ one user said of van Onselen.
‘You seem very definitive in the extract that she attached that you were not abused, so I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to have not taken your own words at face value,’ another wrote.
An incensed van Onselen said he wasn’t ready to ‘fully share’ the details of his abuse, before noting she had deleted her previous tweet
Others sided with the Ten journalist however, saying the thread ‘read like an ambush’.
‘Please take care of yourselves, this is a highly charged discussion and becoming more personal by the tweet. Embrace your loved ones and have a calm night,’ another Twitter user said calmly.
The dispute with Prof. Carey goes back to when she posted an old picture of Prof. van Onselen and his wife Ainslie alongside former Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth and former Liberal MP Christian Porter during their days at the University of Western Australia.
The 20-year-old snap showed the long-time friends in black tie and evening wear at a formal night out, along with a second woman and several other men.
A legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Carey made her nine-word comment on the pic.
Her reply referred to the women in the photograph, which then sparked the threat of defamation actions from Mr Porter and Professor van Onselen.
Prof Carey was hit with three legal notices in one email after making the jibe.
The notices all arrived in the same email from the same high-profile lawyer, Rebekah Giles, who has previously represented Mr Porter, as well as Brittany Higgins and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Prof Carey deleted the tweet and apologised online to Mr Porter and Prof van Onselen for her reply about the photograph. Dr Coatsworth has not been involved in the legal row.
‘On 24th October 2021, I commented on a photograph of Peter van Onselen when he was at university with others & that comment was completely inappropriate & highly offensive and I should never have published it,’ she tweeted.
‘It has now been deleted and I unconditionally withdraw my comment and apologise to Mr van Onselen for the hurt caused to him and his wife by my conduct.’