Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s rape story combats the toxic myths around sexual assault

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites
Sophie Ellis Bextor attends the "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" World Premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on September 13, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)

“My experience was not violent,” says Sophie Ellis-Bextor. “All that happened was I wasn’t listened to.” 

Warning: this article contains includes details of rape and sexual abuse which some readers may find triggering.

There are many unhelpful misconceptions about sexual assault – one of the most common is the idea that there’s always a violent struggle, leaving the victim with visible injuries, which acts as ‘proof’ of her story, of her resistance.

While this can be the case, according to Rape Crisis England and Wales, there “are many reasons why someone might not scream or struggle” in such a situation. In fact, many people find that they cannot move or speak at all – with experts noting that this “is a very common reaction”.

“It can make it difficult for survivors to talk to anyone or get help,” explains a Rape Crisis spokesperson. 

“Survivors often think others will blame them or they won’t be believed. And this can cause shame and self-blame.”

Sophie Ellis Bexter performs during Pride In Manchester 2021 on August 29, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has shared her story in order to give a voice to her 17-year-old self.

Now, in order to make this point loud and clear, Sophie Ellis-Bextor has spoken out about her own experience of sexual assault.

You may also like

Sophie Ellis-Bextor recalls the “horrible” failure she experienced in her career

In an extract from her new book, Spinning Plates, Ellis-Bextor has chosen to give her 17-year-old self “a voice,” recalling how she was raped by a 29-year-old musician (whom she refers to as ‘Jim’) after going to his flat.

“Jim and I started kissing and before I knew it we were on his bed and he took off my knickers. I heard myself saying ‘No’ and ‘I don’t want to’, but it didn’t make any difference,” she says in the book.

“He didn’t listen to me and he had sex with me and I felt so ashamed… I remember staring at Jim’s bookcases and thinking: ‘I just have to let this happen now’.”

Explaining why she felt she “didn’t believe she had a case” at the time, Ellis-Bextor finishes: “I have thought so much about why I wanted to write about this. My life is happy now and I would not say that I felt overly traumatised at the time, and yet I feel as if the culture that surrounded me – the things I saw and read and the way sex was discussed – made me believe I didn’t have a case.

“My experience was not violent. All that happened was I wasn’t listened to. Of the two people there, one said yes, the other said no, and the yes person did it anyway.

“The older I’ve become, the more stark that 29-year-old man ignoring 17-year-old me has seemed.”

Ellis-Bextor’s story is a stark reminder that sex without consent is rape – regardless as to whether or not the victim fought back.

As Rape Crisis England and Wales explains: “Going tense, still and silent is a common reaction to rape and sexual violence.

“Freezing is not giving consent, it is an instinctive survival response. Animals often freeze to avoid fights and potential further harm, or to ‘play dead’ and so avoid being seen and eaten by predators.”

You may also like

Look Away: Sky’s powerful documentary on #MeToo and the music industry is horrifying yet essential viewing

The Rape Crisis team adds: “No matter whether or not someone ‘fights back’, if they didn’t freely consent to sex then it is rape.”

If you would like more information or support, visit Rape Crisis UK – or, alternatively, call 0808 802 9999 (usual opening times are noon–2.30pm and 7–9.30pm any day of the year and also between 3 - 5.30pm on weekdays).

Spinning Plates by Sophie Ellis-Bextor is out on 7 October.

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty


Share this article


Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

Recommended by Kayleigh Dray


This documentary on music’s #MeToo moment is horrifying yet essential viewing

“Rock and roll celebrates that behaviour.”

Posted by
Amy Beecham

Sophie Ellis-Bextor recalls the “horrible” failure she experienced in her career

“It felt absolutely horrible...”

Posted by
Hollie Richardson

“We don’t owe anyone sex”: women share stories of men who expected sex as payback

In her explosive new book Rachel Thompson explores how sexual violence has found its way into the bedroom.

Posted by
Rachel Thompson

The details of Duffy’s rape ordeal are horrifying, but we mustn’t ignore them

Duffy’s story is a vital read, even if we want to ignore bad news at the moment.

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray

“You’ll never work again”: how 3 women dealt with being threatened by a powerful man at work

“To speak out is risky, both emotionally and professionally.”

Posted by
Anita Ghosh