Lady Gaga’s ‘Til It Happens to You’ Calls for Awareness of Sexual Assault on Campus
Lady Gaga is calling for awareness about campus sexual assault in her latest music video for the song ‘Til It Happens to You.’ The ballad was written for the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering. The Hunting Ground is centered on college students who are rape victims and face retaliation when they seek justice. Fittingly, the music video mirrors The Hunting Ground’s PSA.
The video begins with a warning that states, “The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflect the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses.” The screen then fades and begins a short black and white film with four main characters—one girl working with a male friend in her dorm room; another girl, who appears to be transitioning to male, getting dressed in the dorm bathroom; and two girls going to a college party together.
In the beginning, there is happiness. The girl is laughing with her friend, the girl in the bathroom is completing normal daily tasks, and the girls at the party are dancing. Quickly, the scene changes—we see the girl in her dorm room being pushed against the wall by the male friend; we see a boy grab the girl in the bathroom and bend her over the sink, seeming to be aimed at the question of her sexuality; we watch as a boy drops what appears to be a drug in the drinks at the party.
As we witness the horrible acts of rape on screen, Lady Gaga and director Catherine Hardwicke give us the emotional turmoil after the attacks. Words are written on the actor’s skin—“I am worthless,” “Sometimes I hate myself,” “Listen, will you hear me?” and “Believe me.” One of the girls from the party moves out of the dorm; the girls lie around, staring off. Lady Gaga’s voice croons in the background: “You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together, you’ll be fine. Tell me, how the hell do you know?”
But then the video shifts to a more positive note, taking us away from the darkness—the victims are greeted by friends, make new friends, hug one another, and groups of people are then seen walking down a dorm hall holding hands and standing together. The messages on their skin changes: “I am worthy” and “I love myself” are now proudly written. Lady Gaga presents the world that we should be living in: worlds where the victims are heard, not ostracized, receive help, acceptance, and healing.
The video ends with a startling statistic: “One in five college women will be sexually assaulted this year unless something changes.” According to OneInFourUsa.org, one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. In one year 300,000 college women, over 5% of women enrolled in colleges and universities, experience rape. This does not include other forms of sexual assault.
So what do we do with this? We take action. We provide opportunities for people to access information and support. Lady Gaga’s video suggests ItsOnUs.Org. Other resources are notalone.gov, and RAINN has “Staying Safe on Campus” information. To speak to professionals who are trained to help, you can chat online on RAINN.org, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE(4673).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: AMY VAUGHN
As a Montclair State University graduate with a BA in English, my first love is writing, specifically nonfiction and short stories. International human rights and women’s rights are also strong passions of mine. I hope to someday be able to call myself Chief Editor, human rights advocate, and jewelry designer. I can’t live without Mad Men (er, Netflix), soy chai lattes, or my adorable Wheaten terrier, Pippin.