Tuesday, March 1, 2016

2016 Oscars: Shedding the Light on the Epidemic of Sexual Assault

*Trigger Warning*

Thirty-four million people watched live as Lady Gaga and 50 survivors took the 2016 Oscars stage on Sunday to call attention to the rampant rates of sexual assault on college campuses.  Gaga’s song “‘Til It Happens to You,” co-written by Diane Warren, appeared in The Hunting Ground, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s 2015 documentary exposing the institutional cover-ups of campus rape and the brave students using Title IX to fight back.   While “‘Til It Happens to You” did not win Best Original Song, it left a larger impact than winning any award could have. 

Vice President Biden opened the performance by urging the audience to “take the pledge” to intervene and “change the culture” of blaming survivors for their assault. Lady Gaga then appeared in all white at a white piano in the center of the dark stage.  Starting slowly and building in intensity, Gaga’s performance was both gut-wrenching and empowering.  She sang passionately, tearing up at times, almost jerking in anger at others.  Joined by an orchestra for the chorus, Gaga stood as survivors began to flood the stage.  They held out their arms to show phrases written in black: “survivor,” “unbreakable,” “not your fault,” and “it happened to me.”  The emotion was palpable.  The performance ended with the survivors joining hands and, along with Gaga, raising them above their heads in a show of strength and solidarity.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assault while in college.  68% of all assault go unreported and 98% of rapists never see a jail cell.  With statistics like these, we hope the national attention brought about by The Hunting Ground and Gaga’s Oscar performance spurs collective action.  The overwhelmingly positive reactions to both the film and the song are certainly heartening.

Lady Gaga recently released a powerful music video of “‘Til It Happens to You,” which you can watch here.

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern