You tell me hold your head up, hold your head up and be strong
Cause when you fall you gotta get up, you gotta get up and move on
Tell me how the hell could you talk, how could you talk?
Cause until you walk where I walk, this is no joke
1 in 5 women will be the victim of sexual assault on a college campus. 1 in 20 men will be the victim or sexual assault on a college campus. Those are not exaggerated statistics – they are unfortunate truths that is too often hushed, ignored, and silenced because it makes people uncomfortable.
At the 2016 Oscars, Lady Gaga made sexual assault something no one could ignore.
It started on the red carpet with her interview where she gave statistics to her interviewer and acknowledged her own experience with sexual assault. Gaga stood with grace and bravery as she called herself a survivor, something hard for victims of sexual assault to feel like once they’ve lost a part of themselves.
Lady Gaga then took to Instagram with a moving post about finding love after she felt, for so long, that her body was ruined due to her abuser. The post said “He’s stood by me all night proud and unashamedly”, two more words that survivors have a hard time relating to themselves and the people in their lives after they are victims of an attack. Lady Gaga stood as a beacon of bravery at multiple times through the evening.
Joe Biden took the stage and had a powerful message for the crowd at The Oscars and the viewers at home. “We must and we can change the culture so no abused woman or man ever feel they have to ask themselves ‘What did I do?’ They did nothing.” His statement came right before he introduced Lady Gaga’s performance and the crowd roared in applause for his comments. He also urged people to visit it’s on us to pledge to be part of the change that’s necessary for sexual assault victims.
As to be expected, the most beautiful display of Gaga’s bravery was when she took to the stage to perform Till It Happens To You to a packed house and millions of viewers across the world. The performance left no one with a dry eye as she sang her heart out with lyrics like “Till your world burns and crashes till you’re at the end, the end of your rope” and “Till you’re standing in my shoes I don’t wanna hear a thing from you, from you, from you cause you don’t know” she let the world know what happens in your mind as you through the process of feeling human again after assault.
The performance took an even more emotional turn as Lady Gaga invited survivors on stage with her. The survivors, young men and women alike, stood together with powerful messages written down their arms. “Not your fault” “Unbreakable” “Not Alone” “It happened to me” and “Survivor”. At the end, the survivors joined hands, along with Gaga, and stood while an entire assembly of people applauded them for their courage and bravery.
The song was nominated for it’s place in The Hunting Ground which is a film that tells stories of sexual assault on college campuses around the US. The film dared to speak about how sexual assaults are handled on campuses, how victims are scared to speak out, how they feel like they’ve got nowhere to turn, and how sexual assault happens much more often than you’d think – a scary truth.
Lady Gaga is not the first celebrity to come forward as victims of sexual abuse. Tyler Perry, Ozzy Osbourne, Gabrielle Union, Kesha, and Vanessa Williams – just to name a few – have all shared their own stories as survivors and attempted to take the stigma away from sexual assault.
Most young men and women who experience sexual assault are made by the public to feel like they were at fault for what happened to them. They left a drink unattended, they knew their rapist, they dressed a certain way or ended up in a certain place – it’s almost meant to be a victimless crime. Attackers get looked as as innocent while victims are made to feel like they were asking for it, and on top of that, there is fear in admitting what happened.
If you haven’t seen The Hunting Ground, you can view it on Netflix starting on March 14th, you can stream it online or find more ways to view it on their website here. You can also go here and find ways to stand against sexual assault and tell victims it’s not their fault.
We thank Lady Gaga for using a public platform in such a beautiful way, and for every other celebrity who has come forward as a survivor, or someone willing to stand beside one, thank you.
Let us be the generation that makes the change to end sexual assault. It truly is, on us.