Rina Sawayama says she was groomed by a school teacher at 17

"I dissociated from my body. I just felt so afraid"

Rina Sawayama has claimed that she was groomed by a school teacher when she was 17.

The singer shared the revelation for the first time in a new interview with the BBC a few hours before she performed at New York’s Pier 17 last month.

“I was groomed,” she said, now aged 33. “It was by a school teacher.”

“Seventeen to me is a child. You’re in school. If a school teacher is coming onto you, that’s an abuse of power,” she said. “But I didn’t realise until I was his age.”

The pop star added that she felt “slut-shamed” by her peers for their relationship, and that it had long lasting effects that led to feelings of self-loathing.

“I completely lost my sense of self,” she said. “I dissociated from my body. I just felt so afraid.”

Sawayama said that with the help of sex and relationship therapy, she was able to look back at the situation and understand it from a more adult perspective.

“I would revisit my 17-year-old self, hold her close, and tell her that it wasn’t her fault,” she said.

Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama performs on Day 1 of Leeds Festival 2023 at Bramham Park on August 25, 2023 in Leeds, England (CREDIT: Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

She shared that this was the sentiment behind the title of her new album, ‘Hold the Girl‘, while the track ‘Your Age’ was about becoming the same age as her teacher and realising that the relationship was wrong.

The singer added that when she sees the live response to the album’s title track, she wonders if other people have experienced what she did.

“When I look out to the audience and I see women or femmes connecting to it, I think maybe you know,” Sawayama said. “Maybe you have experienced this too.”

In a cover interview with NME last year, Sawayama said that she “didn’t want to write a second album”, and that when she did, she “just wasn’t ready”.

She also alluded to a series of incidents from her youth and shared that she was undertaking intensive therapy at the time the record was written, explaining: “I always knew from the start that this particular incident that I’m kind of addressing is just very, very painful still. So even in the interviews, I’ve skirted around it, but it’s definitely been triggering me a little bit. In terms of the album, I’m really glad that I decided not to say exactly what it was because I think that would have been quite hellish in terms of talking about it.”

For help, advice or information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.

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