Aimee Duffy was positioned to be the next big thing in soul music. Then, a horrific act of sexual violence kept her out of the public eye.
Trigger Warning: This article includes mentions of violent sexual assault.
In 2009, a rising Welsh singer named Aimee Duffy won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.
That album, her debut Rockferry, propelled the mononymously-known Duffy to international fame. Her most successful song to date, "Mercy," topped the U.K. charts and became a Top 40 hit in the U.S., while its soulfulness drew comparisons to Amy Winehouse and Aretha Franklin. Then, mysteriously, Duffy went quiet.
The singer released one more album, Endlessly, in 2010. It performed well overseas, although it failed to reach the same level of ubiquitous success as its predecessor. It arrived under somewhat tumultuous circumstances: Rockferry's success had overwhelmed Duffy to the point where she almost walked away from music, and she'd parted ways with her management. It's understandable why she'd take a couple of years off before releasing LP3, but that short break turned into a decade without new music from Duffy. So, what happened?
Duffy posted on Instagram this week to share a gutting message about her time away, in which she faced unimaginable abuse. "Many of you wonder what happened to me, where did I disappear to and why," Duffy captioned a black-and-white photo of herself. "A journalist contacted me, he found a way to reach me and I told him everything this past summer. He was kind and it felt so amazing to finally speak. The truth is, and please trust me I am ok and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days."
The exact details of Duffy's assault are unknown—nor are we owed them. It's not entirely unusual for artists to create only one or two successful albums before dipping out of the industry. Former Fugees member Lauryn Hill did just that after her classic solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It's equally common—if not more so—for fans to beg M.I.A. artists to return and make new music, especially as social media has blurred the lines and made fan interactions more seamless (Ariana Grande is an expert at responding to, even lightly taunting, her fans in direct Twitter responses when asked about new music). But when we beg beloved musicians to return from an unexplained hiatus, not only can it infringe on their privacy, but it also ignores the sheer frequency of rape cases: according to a 2015 study, one in five women in the U.S. will be raped at some point in their lives. In Duffy's home country, there were over 34,000 reported rape cases that same year, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. This instance sheds a harrowing light on the unreported trauma that can happen behind the scenes.
"The recovery took time," Duffy continued. "But I can tell you in the last decade, the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again, the sun does now shine. You wonder why I did not choose to use my voice to express my pain? I did not want to show the world the sadness in my eyes. I asked myself, how can I sing from the heart if it is broken? And slowly it unbroke."
Duffy didn't have to explain her absence, but her choice to is incredibly brave and empowering.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
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