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At the 88th Academy Awards, Lady Gaga gave the most important and powerful Oscar performance since last year's "Glory" by John Legend and Common.

Reminiscent of last year's showstopping, politically charged performance of "Glory" from the Oscar-nominated film "Selma," Gaga brought the house down with her rendition of "Til It Happens to You," her Oscar-nominated song from the Oscar-nominated documentary "The Hunting Ground," about sexual assault on college campuses.


Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Gaga was introduced by none other than Vice President Joe Biden, who, after uproarious applause and a standing ovation, gave a short speech that many sexual assault activists and survivors never thought they'd hear from such a high-ranking political figure, let alone on the Oscars stage.

Vice President Joe Biden onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

"Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men, on and off college campuses, are still victims of sexual abuse," Biden said, calling for people to take a simple pledge: "I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given."

Gaga took to the stage to sing, the emotional nature of the song visible on her face.

She began her performance alone, seated at a white piano, with a stark black backdrop.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Then, as the song built and the music swelled, Gaga was joined on stage by dozens of survivors of rape and sexual assault.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

It was raw, heart-wrenching, positively earth-shaking, and while "Til It Happens to You" didn't take home the award for Best Original Song (that honor went to Sam Smith's James Bond theme "Writing's On The Wall"), it was a moment that spoke to something much, much bigger.

While Gaga's performance was emotionally and visually captivating, the issue at its core is frighteningly invisible.

The song was written for the critically acclaimed documentary "The Hunting Ground," a film that takes an intimate and startling look at sexual assault on college campuses in the United States.

The film focuses mainly on two students at the University of North Carolina who were sexually assaulted and later became strong anti-rape activists while filing a lawsuit against their school.

Univesity of North Carolina, which features heavily in the film. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

"The Hunting Ground" raises many difficult and important questions about the issue of sexual assault. Why does it go underreported? Why do the alleged rapists get away with it? And, importantly, why do universities often go out of their way to protect students who are accused of rape, while ignoring and often blaming the victims?

In a survey of more than 150,000 students, 23% of the women said they have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.

That's just about 1 in 4. If that doesn't shock you, maybe this will: 34% of female seniors at the University of Michigan reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact, 32% at Yale, and 29% at Harvard.

The survey reveals that even the best schools in the country aren't immune to this tragic and horrifying occurrence.

"The results warrant the attention and concern of everybody in our community," Drew Faust, president of Harvard said in a statement. "Sexual assault is intolerable, and we owe it to one another to confront it openly, purposefully and effectively. This is our problem."

Joe Biden with a rape victim in 2014 at the launch of the "It's on Us" campaign to prevent campus sexual assault. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

Sexual assault might seem like the sort of crime that should always be reported, but it's actually severely underreported.

That's partly because of institutional efforts at universities that make things worse for the victims who report incidents instead of helping them get justice. Sexual assault is one of the only crimes where the victim often ends up on trial, their whole sexual history and personality laid bare and combed through by people looking for any shred of evidence that they brought their assault on themselves or were somehow to blame for it. Guilty until proven innocent.

Unfortunately, while sexual assault on college campuses remains a huge problem, as Gaga sang in front of millions of viewers at the Academy Awards, survivors who want to speak out have to do so while swimming against a current of guilt, isolation, and shaming peers who tell them to simply get over it.

Not to mention they have to go up against institutions seemingly committed to, at best, ignoring their pleas for help and, at worst, covering them up.

Students at UCLA held a rally on "Denim Day," which commemorates a rape victim case being overturned in 1998 because she was wearing jeans. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

A study published last year found that university reports of sexual assault increase by approximately 44% after the university is audited, which means that these institutions may be covering up, underreporting, or otherwise downplaying an astonishing number of cases.

Corey Rayburn Yung, a law professor at the University of Kansas who helped conduct the study, told Vocativ how she interprets the data:

“When it comes to sexual assault and rape, the norm for universities and colleges is to downplay the situation and the numbers... The result is students at many universities continue to be attacked and victimized, and punishment isn’t meted out to the rapists and sexual assaulters.”

Problems as systemic as this one don't get solved until enough people are talking about it and it reaches a breaking point.

Last night's performance was a new venue in which to talk about it. A big one.

Campus sexual assault affects all of us.

Even if it hasn't affected your life personally, it's probably affected the life of someone you know, even if you aren't aware of it. And none of us should be OK with the number of women who report being sexually assaulted at institutions of learning that should be safe spaces for everyone.

When some of us are unsafe, we're all unsafe. Colleges and universities are where people go to make themselves better, to learn and grow as people. Not to have their lives upturned by trauma and their education compromised by an institution (that they pay thousands of dollars to attend) working against them.

The message that booms from Lady Gaga's lyrics is a stark and simple one: "You simply don't know what this is like, how bad it is, how painful it can be, until it happens to you."

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Take the vice president's pledge at ItsOnUs.org.

Images provided by Pacifico

Making waves in the best way

True

At last, summer is here. And for many people, that means it's time for heading to the beach and maybe even catching some waves. Surfing is a quintessential summertime activity for those who live in coastal communities—it’s not only really fun and challenging, it’s also a great way to celebrate Mother Nature’s beauty. Even after a wipeout, the cool water mixed with warm sunshine offers a certain kind of euphoria. Or, you know, just hanging back on the sand is plenty fun too. Simply being outdoors near the ocean is its own reward.

pacifico quiksilver beach cleanupLet’s protect the places where outdoor adventure happensAll photos provided by Pacifico

However, it's well known that our beautiful beaches are suffering the consequences of overcrowding, pollution and littering. What was once a way of playing in nature is now slowly destroying it. And of course, this affects beachgoers everywhere. The sad truth is—without taking action to preserve all the natural joys the earth provides, we will eventually lose them.

But there is hope. Two popular brands that both have roots in surf culture have teamed up to help make trips to the beach a more sustainable pastime. The best part? You don’t have to know how to hang ten in order to participate.

Pacifico®, a pilsner-style lager originally brought to the U.S. by surfers, and Quiksilver, an iconic apparel company loved by both surfers and beach goers alike, have created a brand-new range of clothing and accessories with sustainability in mind.

Take a look below. These threads are great for all kinds of fun in the sun, without compromising the environment.

pacifico quicksilver beach cleanupsReady to make some waves

The collection launches on July 5 and includes tees and woven shirts, boardshorts, hats, flip-flops and a special beach towel and tote bag. The unique collaboration features the vibrant, colorful designs that are the hallmark of Quiksilver combined with Pacifico elements, created to make a positive impact.

Each item has been thoughtfully curated to minimize an environmental footprint and protect the outdoors. The hats, for example, are made from NetPlus® by Bureo®, a raw material created from South American recycled fishing nets. Additionally, the board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, and tees are made with 100% organic cotton. Pretty rad stuff, to put it in surfer lingo.

The prices on these pieces are equally rad, ranging from $28 flip-flops to $60 boardshorts.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos and protecting the places we play, Pacifico and Quiksilver will celebrate the products’ launch by hosting two beach cleanups. The first is on July 5 at Sunset Point in Malibu, California, from 4-5:30pm, and the second is on July 9th at Deerfield Beach in Florida from 8:30 – 10:30am.

pacifico quicksilver clothing lineCleaning up and looking good while doing it

Theses beach cleanups are open to anyone over the age of 21 who’s ready to have some fun while taking care of nature’s playground.

Those who can’t make it to the beach (bummer, dude) don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The new collection will be available on July 5th at www.quiksilver.com/mens-collab-pacifico. And even if you don’t surf, never plan to surf, have no desire to even be near a surfboard, rest assured, the apparel is still cool. Plus sustainable choices are always good fashion.

Our planet provides us with an endless supply of beauty and adventure. But without more mindful actions from humanity, its natural wonders will eventually diminish. Fortunately Pacifico and Quiksilver are making it easier than ever for people to enjoy the great outdoors without jeopardizing it. That’s a wave worth riding.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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