In a new interview with the BBC, Sawayama, 33, revealed that she was groomed as a teenager, and that going to therapy helped her realize that she’d had an inappropriate relationship with an older teacher.
“This is the first time I’m talking about this, but essentially, through doing sex therapy—sex and relationship therapy—I realized that really something that I thought was a relationship that I had, when I was 17, was actually I was groomed,” she explained. “Why that realization happened in my thirties was because I was finally his age.”
Sawayama, who was born in Japan and moved to the U.K. when she was 5, continued: “It came to light that was what was happening in my school, basically, it was a school teacher. I was so badly slut-shamed that I developed so much shame around my sexuality and lost completely my sense of self. I detached from my skin, like, inside. I don’t know how to describe it. But I just felt so afraid of things. And I’d have anxiety attacks.”
Sawayama added that she remembered “distinctly how uncomfortable that made me, but I didn’t put two and two together. And it was through this very intense form of therapy, which I feel so lucky to be able to have access to, that I was able to come to terms with that, and it completely broke my whole world apart.”
The revelation led Sawayama to write the song “Your Age,” in which she sings, “‘Cause now that I’m your age / I just can’t imagine / Why did you do it? / What the hell were you thinking?” The pop star added that writing about her trauma on Hold the Girl was an “incredible experience.”
“Now it makes me so happy when I see women or femmes in the audience connecting to [‘Your Age’],” she said. “When I look out to the audience, and I see femmes or women connecting to it, I’m like, ‘Maybe you know what I’m talking about, maybe you’re feeling it right now.’”
Sawayama is coming off a busy festival season, and made headlines earlier this summer when she called out one of her labelmates, The 1975 frontman Matty Healy, at Glastonbury. Alluding to his controversial appearance on The Adam Friedland Show podcast, she told the crowd that “a white man that watches Ghetto Gaggers and mocks Asian people on a podcast” owns her master recordings, adding, “I’ve had enough!”