Predators are everywhere, even in the places you would think are safest. And when they strike, the shame and fear their victims feel can keep them from exposing their abusers, which keeps the victims from moving forward and finding healing.
Country music singer Lindsay Ell, 31, recently revealed she was one of those victims, saying she was assaulted at the age of 13. The man who raped her was from her church, she said, and it took her seven years to tell her parents.
“I felt like I had really messed up, that everybody was going to judge me and that the rest of my life was ruined,” Ell told People.
“They had no idea it happened, and they were absolutely horrified,” she said of her parents, who she told when she was 20. “I’m so grateful towards both of them because they helped me not go into any unhealthy mechanisms to cope.”
Ell acknowledged she had some deep emotional scars and a twisted view of herself and her body because of the attack. Eventually, she went to therapy, which helped, but then shortly afterward Ell said she was raped again, and this time it was “a lot more violent.”
One of the ways Ell has experienced healing is through opening up to other young women and encouraging people to be more open about the sexual abuse they’ve suffered in order to work toward healing and feel less alone.
“Part of me talking about it now is liberating the little 13-year-old Lindsay and the 21-year-old Lindsay,” she said. “Pain is something we can let control us if we don’t deal with it, but the minute you put a voice to your story the shame has no power.”
One incident in particular, where Ell spoke with other victims through Youth for Tomorrow, helped her feel “empowered.”
“I sat down at this conference table with 12 girls and told my story,” she explained. “As I told more of my story, they felt more inclined to share theirs. I remember walking out of there just feeling so empowered and like I was 10 feet tall.”
Another way she’s dealt with her experiences is through her music, and one of her most recent songs, called “make you,” addresses some of the trauma she’s experienced.
“It’s gonna make you hate yourself / When you didn’t hate yourself at all / It’s gonna make you build a fortress / Where you never had a wall,” the lyrics read.
“I wanted to release it on Global Forgiveness Day,” Ell said. “Forgiving people in our past is a huge thing for whatever reason, but forgiving yourself is so important.”
“There’s an incredible amount of healing that can happen, and it can’t happen until you can truly open up that forgiveness for your own heart.”
“I still carry shame and guilt, but I’m taking the hand of my 13-year-old self and my 21-year-old self and fighting every day together,” she said.
“It’s just a difficult thing to talk about, and it’s something that I process every day still.”
The singer wants other survivors to know they are not alone.
“I hear you and I see you,” she said. “You’re not broken. And you are worthy of incredible things.”
“I felt so alone for so long, like ‘This only happened to me.’ But it’s not true,” she said. “If I would’ve known that when I was 13, I would have felt such a deep feeling of relief.”
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