We can end sexual violence — together.
Lady Gaga's career has been defined by memorable music videos. Her latest one is no exception.
But Gaga's new video isn't the flashy, avant-garde performance art she's usually known for. The video for her latest single, "Till It Happens to You" is the theme song for the documentary "The Hunting Ground," which focuses on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the school administrators who fail to help survivors and/or try to cover it up. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the documentary and make a few brief appearances in it.)
1 in 5 women — and 5% of men — are sexually assaulted during their college careers. Lady Gaga's new video aims to change that.
"Till It Happens to You" is a powerful message for survivors and non-survivors alike.
In the video, Gaga captures how sexual assault can happen in different ways and that what we think of when we think of sexual assault or rape doesn't quite reflect reality.
The media often portrays sexual assault or rape as something committed by an obviously evil-looking villain who drugs his victims. But in reality, 82% of sexual assaults and 47% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and trusts.
And it's a big deal that a major pop star is using her platform to call attention to the fact that sexual assaults don't just happen in darkly-lit back alleys late at night or at alcohol fueled parties.
The video shows that it doesn't matter how assault happens. All survivors need the same thing: support.
All of the survivors in the video struggle with the aftermath of their assaults. To show the impact of the emotional trauma of assault, their thoughts and feelings are written in marker on different body parts.
But when they end up finding comfort in their friends, they transform. They go from shame and self-loathing...
...to hope and self-love.
Of course, Gaga is right, support is crucial — but it's important to note that everyone handles trauma differently. Just because your friend might not seem to be crying or scared, they still might just need a friend to come and hang out to provide a judgement-free space.
When a friend goes through a traumatic experience, it can be hard to understand what they're feeling. But what you can do is listen.
Showing support for a friend can mean everything from simply telling them "I'm here for you" to actually driving them to the therapist's office (at their request).
The song's chorus talks about how the trauma of rape or sexual assault is something that cannot be truly understood unless you go through it yourself:
Till It happens to you, you don't know how it feels, how it feels
Till it happens to you, you won't know, it won't be real
No, it won't be real, won't know how it feels
But even if you haven't personally experienced it, you can still be there for your friend by believing them and their story. It might seem small, but even something as simple as saying "I believe you" can make a huge difference.
In the video, it's the love and support from their friends that gives the survivors the strength to speak up.
It is common for victims to stay silent. In fact, 95.2% of campus rape victims never report. But the tide is beginning to change, thanks to survivors (like Gaga herself) who are speaking up.
They're sharing their stories. And now it's time for college campuses and the government to listen to what they're saying.
The best way to combat sexual assault is to believe survivors. To stand beside them when they share their stories. To make sure their voices are heard.
Sexual assault isn't just a women's issue. Or a survivor's issue. It's an issue for all of us. And we have to fight it together.
Watch the entire music video below:
(Trigger warning for depictions of sexual assault.)