Lindsay Ell has released a new song, "make you," in which she opens up about a part of her life she's kept hidden for years. In the emotional ballad, Ell reveals she's been raped twice, though she only addresses the first assault in the song.
Trigger Warning: sensitive content
"I was raped when I was 13, and it happened again when I was 21," Ell told People. "The song only talks about the first time. It's just a difficult thing to talk about, and it's something that I process every day still."
When Ell was growing up, she says she was "always the good girl." So when a man her family knew from church groomed her and then raped her, Ells says, "I felt like I had really messed up, that everybody was going to judge me and that the rest of my life was ruined."
She didn't tell her parents what happened until she was 20 years old. "They had no idea it happened, and they were absolutely horrified," she shares. "I'm so grateful towards both of them because they helped me not go into any unhealthy mechanisms to cope."
With her parents support, Ell went to therapy but then was raped again. She says the second incident was "different" and "a lot more violent." She declines to share further details, other than to say that she suffered from depression and anxiety after the second incident.
"I was pretty messed up emotionally," Ell admits. "I had a weird relationship with anything about the body because I just hadn't felt safe."
Ell, who wrote "make you" alongside Brandy Clark, used the song to unpack the feelings she has struggles with over the years. "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," she sings on the track.
The country singer explained that she wanted to release "make you" on Global Forgiveness Day (July 7) to celebrate forgiving yourself, which an important part of the healing process. "Forgiving people in our past is a huge thing for whatever reason, but forgiving yourself is so important," she said. "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."
Around three years ago, Ell visited Youth for Tomorrow, an organization in Virginia that supports young victims of sexual abuse. "I sat down at this conference table with 12 girls and told my story," she recalled. "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."
She left inspired to use her story to create hope and chance for other survivors. "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 says.
As a part of the "make you" release, Ell has also launched the Make You Movement, a charity to support organizations that help domestic and sexual abuse survivors and at-risk youth. All proceeds from the song will go to the fund, which is being administered by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.