Warning: This article include details of sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
Singer and musician ‘Halsey’ (real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane) stood on stage in front of thousands at the New York City Women’s March on Saturday and, instead of a speech, she delivered a heart-wrenching poem that left the world reeling.
“I don’t really know how to do a speech unless it rhymes,” the 23-year-old Badlands singer from New Jersey told the crowd.
Her poem A Story Like Mine describes in vivid detail her own experiences of sexual assault – experiences to which too many women can relate.
— h (@halsey) January 20, 2018
Facing the crowd, Halsey defiantly described her anguish as she waited at a Planned Parenthood clinic with a friend who’d been raped. They were scared the rape had resulted in a pregnancy.
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ‘cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
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She told of being sexually assaulted as a child:
I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie
And she recounted how her former boyfriend would force her to have sex, under the impression she couldn’t say ‘no’ because he’d treated her to dinner.
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to b**w him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ‘cause he’s hurting me while he says ‘please’
She told the crowd, the world, how she's been groped, abused and assaulted, all within an industry that's given her so much - she admits she "lives like a queen" - but that has also damaged her irreparably.
She also referenced a 2015 concert, in which she was forced to perform only hours after suffering a miscarriage.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2016, Halsey said she was trying to decide whether to go ahead with the pregnancy but - before she could make a decision - she was in a hotel room in Chicago ahead of a concert and started bleeding uncontrollably. She ended up taking two painkillers, wearing an adult diaper, and going ahead with the show.
She said she was given no option whether to perform, or not. And she put the miscarriage down to being overworked.
"It's the angriest performance that I've ever done in my life," she said. "That was the moment of my life where I thought to myself, 'I don't feel like a f***ing human being anymore.' I walked offstage and went into the parking lot and just started throwing up."
But her message at the Women's March this weekend wasn't one of anger. It was one of inspiration. Here's how she concluded A Story Like Mine to thunderous applause:
We are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbour, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there’s a war to be won
Just, incredible. Thank you, Halsey, for uttering the words we couldn't.
If this brought up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
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