Lara Lee The Voice contestant
The Voice contestant Lara Lee has opened up about being a child sex abuse survivor. Guy Levy/Wall to Wall/BBC Pictures

Lara Lee, a contestant on the latest series of The Voice, has revealed that she was sexually assaulted at the age of 12.

Before winning over mentor Tom Jones with her impressive vocals, the 29-year-old singer's life had almost gone down a darker path. After running away from home as a teenager, she started sleeping rough on the streets of London.

"I remember sleeping in Leicester Square or in Kennington Park," she told the Sun. "I was usually by myself or with one other girl, and we'd always have a massive bottle of cider or vodka.

"Men used to approach me every day. They were very sexual — talking to me about my breasts and calling me a woman.

During the candid interview, Lee recalled a harrowing incident that she has always attempted to block out.

"Some wouldn't take no for an answer, even when I said I was 12. One guy started groping me, but I managed to push him away. At the time I brushed it off, I didn't realise how wrong it was of him to do that," she explained.

Lee, who had run away from home following an argument with her mother, was eventually put in care after social services stepped in.

But despite her efforts to forget the "sickening" sexual assaults she had suffered, they would eventually come back to haunt her.

"It was only years on that I looked back and saw it for what it was — sexual assault. It was sickening. In my 20s I began to grasp how f****d up those things were and how they have affected me."

The part-time youth worker, who will perform Emeli Sande's My Kind of Love on Saturday night (7 March), has since rebuilt her relationship with her mother.

She insists that despite their arguments, her mum has "always supported me — especially in music".