What Lady Gagas Rape Awareness Video Should Have Said

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lady Gaga shines light on campus rape epidemic in powerful ‘Til It Happens to You’ video.

The pop star should be congratulated for making a video that so viscerally evokes rape and its aftermath. Just weeks before the premiere of American Horror Story: Hotel, Lady Gaga surprised fans with the release of a new song and music video, titled “Til It Happens to You.” The song, which Gaga recorded earlier this year with Diane Warren for the documentary The Hunting Ground, focuses on the subject of college campus rape and sexual assault.

The emotional video, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), was shot entirely in black and white and depicts several women being assaulted at fraternity parties and in dorm rooms. Lady Gaga has decided to ditch the cross-dressing, the meat suits, and her other famously scene-stealing sartorial choices for her latest music video in the name of supporting campus rape victims. The women are then shown crying and writing phrases like, “Believe me” and “Sometimes I hate myself” on their arms before being comforted by their loved ones. Hardwicke said in a statement, “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.” Last year, Lady Gaga said during an interview with Howard Stern that a music producer raped her when she was 19. “It didn’t affect me as much right after as it did about four or five years later,” she said. “It hit me so hard.

The scenes are a punch to the gut: a woman passed out cold with her underwear pulled down to her ankles, another trying to fight off a “pal” twice her size as he forces himself on her, the bottles of toiletries that crash and scatter as a woman is slammed forward against a counter–and then her tears as she is taken from behind. In a joint Op-Ed for Billboard, the pair wrote, “Together, we must create the scaffolding necessary to foster the mental, emotional, and physical health of all young people.” Gov. Rape may be one of the hardest human acts to emotionally capture in scripted film, but these were reminiscent of the terrifyingly power of Jodie Foster’s famous scene in The Accused. Though perhaps best known for Twilight, Hardwicke’s keen ability to sensitively capture sensitive, traumatic experiences facing young women is well-documented in her 2003 film, Thirteen. Yet, there is something deeply disappointing about this PSA: it suggests that being a good friend is sufficient therapy and recourse after a rape, but the scene I yearned to see was these women going to the police and reporting their attacks.

The problem with this undeniably powerful video is that it reinforces the separation of dealing with the emotional and the legal ramifications of rape–and specifically our failure to teach women how to deal with the latter. While the PSA directs people to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and while it provides a beautiful message of empowerment by showing the victims finding sufficient support from their peers who listen to them, this is a fairytale, Hollywood ending to a serious crime that demands a police investigation. That being said, as the song makes loud and clear, those of us who have not been sexually assaulted have the responsibility to listen to victims and let them tell their stories.

The silence on this grows deafening the more we are side-tracked on “yes means yes” laws and trigger warnings—topics which in and of itself are valuable to discuss but pointless if we’re not explicitly teaching victims that they must go to the proper authorities.

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