In less than two years, she had gone from “feeling trapped and silenced” after her sexual assault, to putting her trauma into words, and then sharing it live with the nation; it was a whirlwind trip that left little room for healing and plenty of room for her to be retraumatized.
“I thought I was strong enough and tough enough, but maybe I can’t do it. Maybe it’s too much,” she recalled thinking.
But it was the desire to reclaim her own voice, her own art, and create a cultural moment for other survivors that drove her forward when she took the stage to perform the song live. .
And as the last notes of “Little Fires” played and Jonze burst into tears on stage, something incredible happened: the audience stood up and clapped his name in a deafening standing ovation.
Meanwhile, on Twitter and Instagram, fans and people who had never heard of Jaguar Jonze were streaming live footage of the performance like the fires Jonze sings about. The cultural moment she was hoping for was happening.
It was a moment of “empathy, compassion, understanding and intimacy” for Jonze, and especially solidarity with her and other survivors of sexual assault.
It was also proof that his voice – despite having been silenced before – resonated loud and clear in Australian communities and resonated through the very foundations of this country’s music industry.
It’s something Jonze has been working for years as a strong advocate for accountability for sexual abuse and harassment in the music industry, not just because of his own assault, but because of the thousands other stories like his.
“I have suffered from this trauma and abuse for a long time. But only now in the last two or three years have I been advocating for change because I find strength and power in my own platform, my art, and my voice,” she explains.
Although being a public defender can be incredibly emotionally and mentally taxing, Jonze says it has made her feel less alone, knowing that so many people look up to her as an example and an inspiration.
“I’ve had so many contacts and connections that I feel like what I’m doing isn’t just for me, but for others as well,” says Jonze, adding that public representation is so important when These are complex social issues.
A queer Taiwanese-Australian born in Japan, she represents an intersection of femininity, race and sexuality that often goes unseen in public conversations on issues like sexual assault, which too often disproportionately affect women. people from marginalized groups.
But Jonze says “it’s sad that it’s being put on survivors to create this change and raise awareness. We need [to hear] this lived experience to understand what happened [in the industry]but we actually need incredible leadership to take this valuable story…and do something with it.
She calls for stronger leadership on issues such as sexual abuse and harassment in Australia to ease the pressure on public survivors and implement real and lasting change.
But that’s easier said than done in the local music industry, which is an already fragmented environment built on years of power structures that enable and in some cases even encourage abuse of power and harassment.
WATCH: Chanel Contos shares her story on The Project. The story continues after the video.
With no watchdogs or governing bodies that can implement industry-wide policies, the onus is on individuals in the Australian music space to make things happen.
Jonze’s efforts have helped get a long-awaited examination of the Australian music industry’s culture of discrimination and sexual harassment, but the inquiry still needs people to tell their stories and experiences.
While this is a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go for Jonze and so many other Defenders and Survivors working for change.
“It’s really hard trying to implement change…it’s just the first step in raising awareness and being open to conversations and then coming together as an industry to reform,” she said, adding that the years it took to get here left her “tired, exhausted and re-traumatized”.
When so much of your advocacy and art is built on the foundation of one of the most traumatic experiences of your life, it can seem impossible to truly heal and treat each time the wound of your sexual assault is reopened – and in the public eye, no less.
Confessing she ‘didn’t have healthy boundaries’ when she took her place as a public defender, Jonze says she had to learn to take care of herself, even if it means taking a step back in relation to the causes that fascinate her so much for a moment.
“I always give to others before giving to myself. And I think that’s really important when you embark on this advocacy journey…that you remember to surrender to yourself. Self-care is so important in advocacy,” she says.
Jonze urges other young people to take care of themselves as they wade through the waters of political and social causes, something thousands of his fans have done since first hearing “Little Fires.”
The song will likely be part of her setlist when she goes on tour later this year and Jonze hopes performing in front of the people who matter most to her – her fans – will help her continue her journey of reclaiming her voice.
Many of the young women in the crowd will also be survivors of sexual harassment or assault; a 2018 study showed that 72% of Australians have experienced sexual harassment.
For them, Jonze has this message: “[I’m] singing on behalf of many people like me, or who have yet to begin their healing journey… it is possible to move beyond grief and trauma and take power back. I just hope that in this song they can find that power for themselves.
She looks determined and powerful, but admits the reality of having a crowd singing “Little Fires” to her on tour this year might just cause her to “fall apart” again. But healing isn’t linear, and for Jonze, the power of knowing how many more “little fires” she’s inspired is worth it.
Tickets for Bunny Mode’s Australian Tour are on sale now.
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