'Til It Happens to You: In Staunch Support of Campus Sexual Assault Survivors
The Hunting Ground is an unabashed and damning portrayal of the still crucial and widespread problem of rape culture on college campuses. In fact, an estimated 20 to 25% of women in higher educational institutions may experience attempted or completed rape over the course of their college career according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
But these numbers often obscure what this experience is like on an intimate, human level. The fact is, real women experience this — real women like Lady Gaga. In a 2014 interview with Howard Stern, the performer revealed that she wrote the track “Swine,” which is included on the album ARTPOP, to express the degradation she felt after she was sexually assaulted at 19 years old. When she was approached to record a song for The Hunting Ground, therefore, she readily accepted
‘”Til It Happens To You,” written in collaboration with legendary producer Diane Warren, is a plea for understanding. It challenges us to consider the turmoil that occurs after a sexual assault and insists that no one can or should judge those who have experienced it. It's a defiant show of support for campus rape survivors when there often isn't any. The song’s accompanying PSA — an unflinching and graphic depiction of many instances of campus sexual assault and the aftermath, directed by Catherine Hardwicke — is arguably as hard-hitting as the documentary itself.
It’s a vital message to send, especially in the context of Rolling Stone’s now-infamous examination of a campus rape case at the University of Virgina. The piece was determined to be journalistically unsound, as many details of the story in question were unable to be verified. After this failure, many began to doubt other survivors' accounts, seemingly undermining the valuable work done by activists on campuses across the country.
This song's determination to re-center the campus sexual assault conversation on the reality of survivors' experiences, therefore, renders it required consumption. The song and accompanying video's message is clear: something needs to change — namely, our attitudes towards campus rape and campus rape survivors. We need to focus on prevention over retroactive responses and encourage administrations to treat survivors better. No one can really know what surviving rape is like unless they go through it themselves, but ultimately, if we listen to this song and survivors themselves, perhaps no one day nobody will ever have to know.
More articles by Category: Arts and culture, Feminism, Media, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexualized violence, Rape, Music, News