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Duffy Opens Up About What Helped Her Survive Assault and Years of Isolation

Singer Duffy has shared the details of her kidnapping and sexual assault in a new blog post.

This article contains mentions of sexual assault that some readers may find disturbing.

In February, singer Duffy told the world the cause of her decade-long absence from music: trauma from a kidnapping and rape. This Sunday, Duffy detailed the events and their aftermath in a 3600-word blog post on her website.

The post briefly describes what happened, but it focuses more on Duffy's psychological trauma following the event and, eventually, describes her slow journey towards the decision to share her story.

She acknowledges the fact that her post comes in the midst of coronavirus, when millions are stuck at home, living in fear and instability and isolation. "It troubles me that this story contains sorrow, when so many need the opposite of that at this time," she begins. "I can only hope that my words serve as a momentary distraction or maybe even some comfort that one can come out of darkness."

Her decision to post the story comes from a knowledge that just like she will never be able to become who she was before she was raped, there will never be a right time to share her story—and now, it might be able to help some people who feel as lost and scared as she did.

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"I was tired of hiding," she wrote. "What is also hard to explain is that, in hiding, in not talking, I was allowing the rape to become a companion. Me and it living in my being, I no longer wanted to feel that intimacy with it, a decade of that intimacy has been destructive. I had to set myself free. I have been hurt and it would have been dangerous to talk from that hurt place in the past, prior to feeling ready."

The description of what happened to her is brief and vague and horrifying, like the stuff of true nightmares. "It was my birthday, I was drugged at a restaurant," Duffy writes. From there, she was taken home and drugged, then brought to a foreign country in a plane and a car, where she was raped in a hotel room for days. Eventually, her assailant took her back to her house and held her there. At last he left, but the trauma did not. The ordeal lasted four weeks.

Following what happened, Duffy wrote, she spent a long time with the memories as a silent companion, living in isolation, hiding from the world and wasting away. She told no one, blaming herself, wondering what she'd done to deserve what happened. She moved to five different houses before finally settling down, never feeling safe until she reached the "fifth house," in an unspecified location somewhere by the ocean. Appropriately, the essay is called "The 5th House." Eventually, she told a psychologist and a police officer what happened, and she slowly began to reconnect with life and the world. She ultimately found solace in the quote, "In the end, it's never between them and you, it's always between them and God."

Because of all this, Duffy is no stranger to painful solitude. After she was raped, she spent a long time isolating herself, struggling and failing to love and trust. Throughout the essay, she extends love and sympathy to anyone feeling alone and afraid right now.

Now, she wants to share her story in order to connect with and help others facing isolation and fear. What helped her survive years of isolation was therapy, gratitude, time, and the generosity of fans and friends who opened their homes to her and extended support.

Isolation can be extremely painful, but there are ways to make it through. "Knowing the mind's science enables you to manage it," she advised. "And isolation is a small price to pay for saving lives, therefore we must be strong in the face of it. This demands us all, as one, to act for each other; never has mindfulness been so vital as it is now," she continued. "Naturally, the key is love. If you are reading this and are sad my encouragement to you is that … to know pain, you must first know how to love. Only the absence of love causes pain. So, go find it. Seek love in everything, even in a teacup."

Duffy - Mercy www.youtube.com

Duffy ends the essay by saying that she hopes to produce more music and feels she owes it to herself to produce a body of work someday, but she can't promise anything. "Hopefully no more "what happened to Duffy questions," she concludes. "Now you know… and I am free."

Duffy's decision to go public with her story was praised by Rape Crisis, a rape charity. Katie Russel, the national spokesperson for the England and Wales branch of the organization, said that the post was "a really bold move" and "really commendable."

"We know through our frontline work at Rape Crisis why so few victims and survivors do speak about what has happened to them, or indeed report it to the police," Russell said. "It is because there is a lot of shame and stigma still attached to being raped or sexually assaulted and there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there around the kind of people it happens to. In speaking out Duffy is reaching out to those people who maybe are suffering on their own.

"When people in the public eye speak about their experiences it really does help to encourage debate and widen understanding. That's really important because there is still a lack of understanding and we don't talk enough about rape and sexual violence."

Speaking out can never make up the lost time and loss of self that comes after something like this, but it can create new pathways of hope and strength for other people affected by these horrible things. In her post, Duffy wrote, "I am sharing this because we are living in a hurting world and I am no longer ashamed… I believe that if you speak from the heart within you, the heart within others will answer. As dark as my story is, I do speak from my heart, for my life, and for the life of others, whom have suffered the same."

Similarly, making it through and recovering from COVID-19 will require community action and connection like nothing we've seen before, but it will also take things from us that we'll never get back—including time. What we can do is find the small moments of gratitude within it all and extend love to others while we can.

Or, as Duffy says, "There will be great change to come from our shared crisis, a renewed understanding and appreciation of freedom and human connection, but nothing comforts loss, only time."

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MUSIC

What Happened to Duffy?

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?

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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