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Seattle musician tells his story of childhood sexual assault through music

Screenshot from the music video for the song 'Leave Them' features childhood sexual assault survivors scream underwater as a way to highlight their silence.

Ben Doerr is a sailboat charter captain by summer and a songwriter in Seattle’s cold and rainy months as leader of the band St. Paul de Vence.

“I write toward the darker side because I write in the winter of Seattle,” Doerr said. “It’s always gray and sad so I kind of write sadder songs but there are little themes of hope and inspiration in there.”

One of those songs is called, “Leave Them.” It’s about childhood sexual assault.

The music video features actual survivors of childhood sexual assault. One by one you see them dive underwater in a swimming pool. You then see each victim scream in slow motion as a way to highlight the silencing of the problem and of the pain.

One of those victims is Doerr himself. He said being in the video was a “coming out moment as a survivor.”

“[It’s] a way bigger problem than most people are aware of: one in 10 kids in the U.S. will experience sexual assault in their childhood,” he said.

Doerr said writing the song and being in the video has been part of a healing process for him.

“[The song] gave me the space for a few years to put it there and deal with it there and not have to say anything. And I’m kind of slowly been able to get to where I can say things about it,” he said.

Even though the “Leave Them” video was released just last month, Doerr said he still hasn’t had many personal conversations with his friends and family about childhood sexual assault. He made the music video as a way to start a conversation with other survivors that says, “we’re listening.”

“Talk about your story when you’re ready to talk about your story. We as a culture are ready to listen. And the more we listen, the less you have to carry that story and carry the physical and emotional weight of that thing. I think that’s where we begin to have a large scale healing process,” he said.

St. Paul de Vence is one of the bands that made it to KUOW’s Top 10 Tiny Desk Contest from Washington state. NPR is announcing the winner of its Tiny Desk Contest next week.

If you need help

Here are some resources for victims and survivors of abuse: King County Sexual Assault Resource Center 888-998-6423 Hotline for therapy, legal advocates and family services UW Medicine Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress 206-744-1600 Hotline, resources including counseling and medical care Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs List of providers across the state that offer free services. Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) 800-656-4673 Hotline and/or online chat with trained staff