For Kinley Dowling, sharing a painful psychological wound with the world has been worthwhile.
Dowling’s new song Microphone reveals she was raped 15 years ago, at her high school prom party.
“I just kept saying, ‘No, no. I don’t want to.’ And he just kept saying, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry.’ And I was like ‘No, I don’t want to. This is not what I want to do.’ And then he just raped me, right there and I just went frozen.”
Since it was released last month, the song has reverberated with friends and strangers alike.
“They felt like they could never say anything. But, the same thing happened to them, and, they’re finally feeling like they have the confidence to speak about it,” Dowling said.
Sitting down with Global News, in her Charlottetown, P.E.I., home earlier this month, Dowling said some of the feedback is especially poignant.
“I got an email yesterday from an 81-year-old woman, who said she was sexually assaulted and her mother knew about it but they never talked about it or did anything about it, because the mentality was ‘Well, what will the neighbours think?'” Dowling said.
At 33, Dowling says keeping her feelings to herself had grown tiresome.
“Every time I thought about it, I would just get so angry, and just so sad at the same time. And I didn’t know how to express myself or how to move on from it,” Dowling said. “And then one day I just sat down, and I wrote it all in 15 minutes.”
The recorded version of Microphone from Dowling’s album Letters Never Sent has a catchy, propulsive beat, in contrast to the acoustic version she and boyfriend, Dylan Menzies, played for Global News.
“One day, it just came out, I was like ‘If you come to my show, I think you should know, I’m gonna call you out, for the rest of my life,'” Dowling said.
Unburdening herself feels good, she says, to the point where she’s able to speak about her rape in a measured, confident tone.
Until now, Dowling says she was content to remain in the background, as a musician with the indie rock band, Hey Rosetta!
As her band grew in popularity, Dowling said she considered the best way to break her silence, first mentioning her rape in a friend’s art project.
Even harder than deciding to sing about it was how to tell her father, Alan.
As it turns out, he’s a shining example of how victims’ advocates say family members should react — with support, not questions.
“First of all, I felt really bad for her, that this had happened,” Alan Dowling said. “But, at the same time, I told her right away how proud I was of her, for her to come out and show such bravery.”
Dowling joins a growing number of artists and others speaking out against sexual assault, from inappropriate touching, to rape.
The PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre says the movement is overdue.
“In our world, we’ve tended to keep those crimes secret, and to actually deny and minimize the impacts on survivors, and, in fact to blame and shame survivors,” the centre’s Sigrid Rolfe said.
“So, I think it’s very courageous for people to come forward and hopefully, the more we hear about these things, the more our society will do to support survivors in healing from the impacts, and people will ultimately become more aware,” Rolfe said.
If cumulative attention from mainstream and social media puts her in a position of activism, Dowling says that’s OK
Professionally, and, personally, she’s says she’s more prepared for life than ever.