Lindsay Ell Reveals She Was Raped at 13 and 21

On July 7, Global Forgiveness Day, Lindsay Ell released her new song, "make you," an emotional ballad in which Ell reveals that she has been sexually assaulted, a topic she has never before discussed. Speaking to PEOPLE, the Canadian star revealed that she has been raped twice, though she only addresses the first assault in "make you."

"I was raped when I was 13, and it happened again when I was 21," she said. "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 young, she said that she was "always the good girl" and was groomed and eventually raped by a man in her church who her family knew. "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 said, sharing that she was eventually able to tell her parents about what had happened when she was 20. "They had no idea it happened, and they were absolutely horrified," the singer recalled. "I'm so grateful towards both of them because they helped me not go into any unhealthy mechanisms to cope."

She went to therapy with her parents' support but was soon raped again, a situation she says was "different" and "a lot more violent." "I was pretty messed up emotionally," she noted, sharing that she suffered from depression and anxiety after the assault. "I had a weird relationship with anything about the body because I just hadn't felt safe."

Ell wrote "make you" with fellow singer/songwriter Brandy Clark and used the song to unpack the feelings she has struggled 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. The 31-year-old explained that she wanted to release the song on Global Forgiveness Day to celebrate forgiving yourself, which is an essential part of healing. "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."

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Around three years ago, Ell visited Youth for Tomorrow, an organization in Virginia that supports young victims of sexual abuse, and shared that the visit had a huge impact on her. "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."

"I felt so alone for so long, like 'This only happened to me.' But it's not true," she added. "If I would've known that when I was 13, I would have felt such a deep feeling of relief." Ell continued, "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." Along with sharing her story, Ell has started her own charitable fund, the Make You Movement, which supports a variety of causes and organizations with a focus on disenfranchised use and survivors of sexual trauma and domestic abuse. "make you" is the second song Ell has released from her upcoming album, Heart Theory, which will arrive on Aug. 14.