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Lady Gaga’s haunting video drags sexual assault into spotlight

Lady Gaga finally addressed the issue of sexual assault on campuses in her new song “‘Til It Happens To You,” which provides a visceral view of the nature of sexual assault at universities.

Gaga wrote the track with Diane Warren for the film “The Hunting Ground,” which was shown at USF during the Title IX rally earlier this month. According to Billboard, the song raced to No. 1 on the Billboard Twitter Realtime Trending 140 charts upon the video’s debut. 

The song has received an abundance of support, with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey speaking out about the issue. Winfrey shared the video with her Twitter followers stating, “Sharing this with all my college daughters.” 

Gaga revealed in an interview in December with Howard Stern that her music producer sexually assaulted her when she was 19. She tweeted that a portion of the proceeds from the song will be donated to organizations helping survivors of sexual assault, according to Marie Claire.

The music video depicts three different stories of sexual assault that are shown in graphic detail. The beginning of the video warns about the upcoming images, stating the unsettling content “reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses.”

Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the video, stated, “I hope that this PSA, with its raw and truthful portrayals, will send a clear message that we need to support these courageous survivors and end this epidemic plaguing our college campuses,” according to Deadline.

On Monday, the Association of American Universities Campus Climate released data from a study that surveyed 150,000 students at more than two dozen universities. The results showed one in four college women experienced unwanted sexual contact at some time during college.

The Tampa Tribune stated freshman women appear to be at greater risk than older students, with 17 percent of freshman females stating they were victims of this type of assault. Eleven percent of women said the same when asked about their senior year.

According to the same study, the number of incidents reported ranged only from 5 to 25 percent. When asked why they chose not to report the assault, students said “they didn’t consider it serious enough, they were embarrassed or ashamed,” and they “did not think anything would be done about it.”

Gaga addressed this issue in her video by detailing the aftermath of the effect on the victims. The women in the video wrote sayings like ‘I am worthless,’ ‘Sometimes I hate myself’ and ‘Believe me’ on their skin to display the emotional effects of each incident.

However, the video goes beyond the traumatizing incidents. Gaga shows a support group forming around each girl, loving and assisting them through the aftermath. 

The importance of believing and listening to the victims of sexual assault was showcased by images of ‘Listen, you will hear me,’ ‘I am worthy’ and ‘I love myself’ replacing the previous messages written on their skin.

The video ends with victims and their supporters walking arm in arm down a dorm hallway. As the last group exits the screen, a girl stands silhouetted at the end of the hall representing all the future victims. The screen then displays the message, “For help call National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE.” 

Gaga’s video perfectly portrays the growing intolerance for assault in our culture. It is time for victims to feel safe to report their assault. Believing their stories can help prevent future incidents from occurring and will begin to make campuses safe for all students. 

Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.