A Year After The #MeToo Movement, Indie Artist Em Hoggett Talks Rape, Sexual Violence, and the Healing Power of Music

Indie Artist Em Hoggett is earning rave reviews from some of the most prestigious critics in the music business.   The accolades are well earned.  She started training in classical piano at the tender age of 4. After earning degrees in music, she has performed with renowned concert pianist Lang Lang at the Royal Festival Hall (London), and the Fazioli Concert Hall (Italy). Her single, “What I Want to Say You,” has brought comparisons to Tori Amos and Lady Gaga.  Raped at 16, Em has used her music to heal. During our interview I was reluctant to use the word rape. Em refuses not to say it because, “that’s what it is and I never want to sugarcoat it.”

{C}: How has being raped affected your ability to trust others and enjoy physical relationships?

EH: Hugely. I personally refer to it as rape because that’s what it is, and I never want to sugarcoat the experience or make it seem anything less horrific than it was. Immediately after, my physical relationships were largely affected as I experienced large amounts of physical pain because of the rape. I would experience flashbacks and PTSD. I also had issues trusting the integrity and motivations of men in my life, even my boyfriend, although I knew there was nothing I could. Once I understood that someone you knew could do this, I became fearful of everyone. I still have physical problems because of the rape, as trauma often stores itself in your body. Parts of my body are still living in the attack, trying to protect me, and are constantly in pain and tense. This is something I’m working on releasing every day. I am at a much better place with trust and physical relationships now, but it was definitely a process.

{C}: Did you know the person?

EH: Yes, I did. That was one of the reasons it took me a while to process and accept what had happened. I grew up thinking that rape was something that happened when you were hit over the head in an alley by a stranger. At 16, I didn’t understand and couldn’t imagine that this could happen at the hands of someone you knew.

{C}: By the time this is published, the US will most likely have a sexual assaulter sitting on our highest court. What is your opinion on this?

EH: I tend to stay away from politics, but I am absolutely outraged at the current situation and it is no surprise that so many people stay silent, as speaking out is often not met with the desired response. Nobody wants to believe that their friend is a rapist. When raped by someone in your ‘circle’, so many people don’t speak out because of a fear that no one will believe them. But we all need to take a serious look at our values and stop protecting rapists because we don’t want to admit the truth.

{C}: How has music helped you heal?

EH: It truly saved me. It was the purest form of expression. Getting out and expressing your emotions is absolutely essential to healing. Otherwise all those feelings and thoughts would’ve lived inside my body. I could feel them. They were absolutely dragging me down like rocks attached to my stomach. I had to release it. If you don’t, these emotions will show themselves in other situations where they don’t belong. Music was the perfect tool to express everything in an honest and unapologetic way.

{C}: Will there be a full album coming out soon?

EH: Yes! I have a 12-track album in the works right now. I hope to start recording in November. This album will be very different, and explores themes of regained strength, power and inspiration. It also touches on music as a savior. I’m excited to release it. The public have heard me at my worst; in the EP, they have heard true agony. I am hoping the new album will show people that it doesn’t stay that way forever.

{C}: Do you think that a higher percentage of men may be victims of sexual assault and violence but are too ashamed to speak out?

EH: Possibly. There is really no way for me to know, but it’s important that we treat male-identifying survivors with just as much sensitivity as female-identifying survivors. It’s a huge problem for men as well as women. We should focus on encouraging men to come forward just as much as women.

{C}: What is missing from the Me Too movement?

EH: People are starting to speak out which is an amazing start. People just need to talk about it MORE. Rape is still something that is taboo in our culture and that people feel uncomfortable speaking about. I hope to change this. I want the world to get to a point where if I was raped right now, the first thing I would do would be to call someone and tell them what happened and that I needed help. And to know that I would be believed and receive help instead of suppressing it for years, feeling ashamed, afraid, and alone, which unfortunately is the response of so many survivors, including myself. It is not surprising that this is the response when there is so much hatred and victim-blaming that survivors are faced with when speaking out. This needs to change.

I spoke to an activist recently, Steph Feldman, who said “victim blaming is the act of constantly putting the focus on the victim as opposed to the perpetrator. People are more inclined to find excuses for why it wasn’t rape than instead, their first instinct being to believe the survivor. In our culture, people’s first thoughts aren’t ‘yes you were raped, I believe you’. Instead, people try to find reasoning as to why it might’ve happened and try to disprove it. This is because we are seeing more and more that rapists aren’t necessarily strangers in dark alleyways. They are our coworkers, peers and friends. And no one wants to admit that their friend is a rapist.

This is totally true. Victim blaming doesn’t just mean “it was your fault”. It is also when we try to find any way to make it not be rape. “You were both drunk”, “Maybe you’re misremembering”, “You were just having fun!” “But he’s so nice, he would never do that” “Are you sure that’s how it happened?” These are all inappropriate. If someone ever confides in you about being sexually abused, BELIEVE THEM. And offer support in whatever way they might need. Do not listen to their story and think of ways in which it might not have been sexual assault.

{C}: What is it about music that helps heal the soul?

EH: The freedom of expression. Through music itself, through lyrics, through dynamics. Everything about music is incredibly sensitive, personal and intricate. It is such an incredible way to release feelings. Also, for me personally, it is because music has been such a huge part of my life since a young age, and has always been my form of expression. The piano is truly my friend. It is the first thing I go to in times of struggle.

It is also an incredible way to share with others. Music has an incredible power to make people feel something. That was one of the reasons I released the EP. We see statistics in the news every day, and often, people care for five minutes and then go back to their day. It is hard to connect to words on a page. Music can impact the soul, and my hope is that the songs have the power to really help people to understand what is felt by a survivor, feel how horrendous it is, and take steps to make a difference.

{C}: I have a feeling that you are going to be compared to Tori Amos a lot. Are you familiar with her music? If so, what do you think of the comparison?

EH: I have been compared to Tori. I am familiar with her music, but not to the extent which I would like to be. Tori is also an advocate against sexual assault and has powerfully depicted her experiences through song, like I have, so I am honored to be compared to her. Musically, we have similarities and differences, but we share a common goal. I would love to work with Tori.

{C}: How did the Burning Man Festival change your life?

EH: In many ways. It was such an amazing experience. Living in a society founded on love, sharing, radical inclusion and art is like nothing else. The absence of money was incredible as it enabled everyone to so freely give and to receive. It was a totally different atmosphere.

Performing there was awesome. On the same morning I had a set at 5 am and another at 9 am, playing classical piano for a Yoga class. I was awake all of Saturday, stayed out until 4:30 am, cycled to the stage, played from 5 am-6:30 am, changed and then performed from 9 am-11 am. One of the most stand-out moments was just the fact that I had the energy to do this! The energy of everyone around me fed me constantly. The playa provides!

Performing for the Yoga class reminded me how much I love doing things just to give other people joy, regardless of money. I realized that if you have a gift to share with the world, which we all do, you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any favors by not sharing it.  The Temple there is the most incredible place. It is a place to let go. Entering the Temple was like nothing else. It was full of human beings openly expressing their pain. This was truly an incredible experience. In our society, most of us try to hide pain. This was a space where it was safe to be completely vulnerable. It was a beautiful experience to see a place that had been created to allow us all to feel the things we are so often told to suppress, and to support each other through that.

It gave me hope for our society. Being at Burning Man showed me what our society could be like, and all I could think when I was there was “I wish the world was like this”. It showed me that the hope for a kind world is not lost, and that it is possible. It was refreshing to see people living in such a selfless, loving, giving way and I hope we can all start to live by these ideals.  I also made a lot of self-discoveries which have played a part in my daily life since I got back. Living in the desert, with no outside distraction, surrounded by strangers, being fully self-supporting, truly experiencing kindness and love; this all teaches you a lot. There are drastic ups and downs at Burning Man, but the lows have so much to teach you.

{C}: At what age did you start playing piano?

EH: I was classically trained from the age of 4. I was performing as a classical pianist throughout my whole childhood and took my first degree in piano when I was 11. Music was a huge part of my life from a very young age. I later became interested in writing songs and soon found it was a complete passion. I’m very grateful to have grown up with this tool that has now become such an essential part of my identity.

{C}: What makes you smile?

EH: Being with people I love, dancing, the ocean, adventure, travel, dogs, the beauty of the world. Truly, lots of things.

{C}: What gives you hope?

EH: Recognizing how far I have already come. When things are bad, sometimes I feel like it will never get better or that I won’t be able to get through it. But remembering where I was four years ago in comparison to where I am now is very helpful. I have overcome so much. I also work with a life coach who is phenomenal. She has a spiritual approach and it is very comforting to know that I have someone to turn to no matter what is going on in my life. We work with a lot of tools that focus on retraining your brain and having control over your mind and thoughts. It’s really an incredible process, and taught me that all the power lies with me. This has been a very liberating discovery.

In terms of the future of sexual assault, I am happy to see that more people are speaking out. This is a great step forward, but we still have miles to go. As I touched on earlier, I want to get to a point where society is accepting enough that anyone would feel comfortable enough to share their experience immediately after it had happened, instead of suppressing it for years. Obviously, the ultimate goal is that we eradicate sexual assault completely.

For now, every person who speaks out is making a difference.


Post Author: Brenda Clemons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *