The Importance of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You”

And the 50 Survivors Who Stood with Her

Real Talk | Juliann Phan | March 6, 2016

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Lady Gaga is more than a pop icon with signature blonde hair. More than the extravagant costumes and over the top make up to make her unearthly. More than the term Mother Monster.

She is proving more recently her versatility in music and her passionate, activist approach to those affected by sexual assault and abuse.

On Sunday night we watched the moving performance dedicated to the survivors of sexual assault on college campuses on the Oscar stage. The song ‘Til It Happens To You” was written by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren for the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground. The documentary raised the hairs on my arm and the song has the similar affect.

Lady Gaga and Diane Warren are both victims to sexual assault.

This performance was not the first time Lady Gaga spoke about being a sexual assault victim, but was one of the larger platforms that allowed her to reach the masses.

Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States introduced Lady Gaga to the stage. She performed in a white suit designed by one of her stylists and best friends, Brandon Maxwell. She sat at a white grand piano, starting gracefully, but soon grew to passionate singing and stern facial expressions in dim lights.  At the end chorus, the lights lit the stage to reveal women and men on stage with quotes written in black ink on their bare arms that read “SURVIVOR,” “I AM NOT MY PAST” and “IT’S ON US.”

The 50 marked men and women on stage were all victims to sexual assault on college campuses and some were those from the documentary.

Lady Gaga on the Oscar stage with victims of sexual abuse.

I like to believe I was the 51st victim on the stage. That I could have stood there on stage with other victims who have undergone traumatic experiences like myself. The severity of sexual assault is gaining momentum at college campuses, but by no measure are we doing enough to prevent it.

The haunting statistic that 1 in 5 students will be sexually assaulted before they graduate needs to be addressed. 

For years Lady Gaga’s music has influenced pop culture and activism within the LGBTQ+ community and now sexual assault victims. Myself and other fans, saw a different side of Lady Gaga during the Oscars that filled my eyes with sitting tears not ready to stream down my face.

The song was nominated for Best Original Song, but lost to Sam Smith’s “Writing On The Wall.” Many fans, like myself, were puzzled by the speech, distraught and annoyed by the loss. It’s rumored Sam Smith wrote “Writing On The Wall” in 45 minutes and recorded it the same day. The song is lack luster, and yet another James Bond tune that will be forgotten in a couple years and buried at the bottom of James Bond remakes.

Yes, Gaga’s performance made headlines and received a standing ovation, but it would have been groundbreaking that a song regarding sexual assault win.

It would have showed the collective belief that music can serve and help victims and give the understanding that documentaries are humanistic narratives.Lady-Gaga-Kesha

Lady Gaga’s message didn’t stay only on the stage. She went on to Twitter and Instagram to show her support and love to those who have been victims. Gaga has been voicing her support for Kesha with #FreeKesha. Actress Brie Larson, winner of Best Actress in Room was seen after the award show hugging all victims from the performance.

“The severity of sexual assault is gaining momentum at college campuses, but by no measure are we doing enough to prevent it.”

As a fan of Lady Gaga, I believe this will be the year she is more vocal about causes. As a victim of assault, I believe this is the year we help heal those affected through music, education and social change.

We need to start giving attention to victims of sexual assault on and off college Lady-Gaga-SlutWalkcampuses.

We need to start believing victims and getting them medical help. We need to start recognizing when universities have failed victims and correcting those mistakes. The default should not be the assumption victims are lying about their assault  or the perpetrator. Victims who choose to speak on survival and recovery are not stronger than those who don’t speak on it. Everyone heals differently, at different paces, with different modes, but it’s comforting when you can stand on a stage with others who bear similar trauma.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please reach out to:

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1 (800) 656 – HOPE

Mason Cares

  • Or your campuses Cares or Sexual Assault Office

For more information on campus sexual assault, please go to:

Title IX

  • Learn about your campuses Title IX Coordinator

End Rape on Campus