Singer Kate Miller-Heidke has revealed she was sexually abused as a child by her great-grandfather, "a paedophile and a serial offender" of whom she says she was "wasn't the first or the last" victim.
In a powerful statement published on Instagram this morning, the Australian musician wrote of the abuse while announcing a reissue of her recent song You Can't Hurt Me Anymore, as a duet with fellow musician and outspoken campaigner against sexual misconduct, Jaguar Jonze.
"I usually say this song is about dancing on the grave of an arsehole," the 40-year-old wrote.
"My latest album Child in Reverse is about childhood. One thing that happened to me when I was a very young child (from the ages of 4-6) was that I was sexually abused by my great-grandfather Archibald Barnes. He was a paedophile and a serial offender. I wasn't the first or the last. (Although obviously my family didn't know it at the time, and didn't find out until some years later.)
"This song is about how I felt when he died. Ultimately it's a really empowering song to sing."
Miller-Heidke said she had felt motivated by sexual assault activists and survivors Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins to share her experience — but that Jonze, whose real name is Deena Lynch, was "the most important inspiration".
"I probably wouldn't have been so open about this without the examples of Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, but the most important inspiration was Jaguar Jonze, with whom I had a very deep conversation the morning this song was written," she wrote.
"She described some very shocking things that happened to her as a child, and I felt very connected to her, and full of admiration for her resilience too — that's when the song title You Can't Hurt Me Anymore popped into my head.
"I think it's one of the most powerful songs I've written, and it's a privilege to sing it with Jaguar Jonze, who transformed the track with her potent raw energy."
Jonze said in a statement this morning that at first she didn't know the track was based on the conversation the pair had had years before, writing that "back then I had no platform and less power".
"So to have had this impact on Kate really is testament to the momentum that is created when we speak out and share our stories and experiences," the musician, who has previously publicly alleged that she was sexually assaulted in 2019, said.
"I am honoured she invited me to sing and create a reworked version of the song alongside my band. It was a precious opportunity for us both to channel our pain, resilience and triumphs through what we love — music, art and honest storytelling.
"I stand with Kate for being so strong and finding her voice. It's my hope that by sharing these experiences, others will be encouraged to speak out, so that we can continue breaking down walls as survivors and make a stand that we will no longer tolerate abuse anymore."
Last June, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Boscar) brief revealed there'd been a 61 per cent increase in sexual assault incidents reported to NSW Police in March 2021.
While experts couldn't pinpoint the exact reasons for the spike, they believed that media coverage over then-Australian of the Year Ms Tame and former Liberal staffer Ms Higgins' allegation she was sexually assaulted were a big factor.
Australian sexual consent activist Chanel Contos, who now lives in London, has also encouraged hundreds of women to discuss their experiences on Instagram and online.
"While this spike comes off the back of intense media coverage and long-overdue public discussion of sexual violence in our communities, it also demonstrates what we already knew, that these crimes are significantly under-reported each day," NSW Attorney-General and then-Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Mark Speakman, said at the time.
"I commend the extraordinary courage of all of the victim-survivors who've recently contacted police to report sexual assaults."
Sexual harm - Where to get help
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, any time 24/7:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email email@example.com
• For more info or to web chat visit safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been sexually assaulted, remember it's not your fault.