By Emily Baker
Lady Gaga has officially hung up the wig and meat suit to pursue a music career based in solid vocals and social significance. Gaga’s music video for the song ‘Til It Happens To You’ makes a keen statement about sexual assault on college campuses in the United States. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke – director of both Thirteen (2003) and Twilight (2008) – the piece is dedicated to victims of sexual assault worldwide.
This is not Gaga’s first piece of musical activism. She is outspoken about her bisexuality and uses her influence on the public to her advantage in support of LGBT rights. Similar to her experiences as a bisexual woman, this project has a personal significance to Gaga. According to an article by the Guardian, Lady Gaga revealed she is a survivor of sexual assault, having been assaulted at age 19 (her song ‘Swine’ documents what happened to her). Gaga made this video in collaboration with the documentary The Hunting Ground which focuses on the rape culture so prevalent on college campuses today.
The video begins with a warning: “The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses.” The video features four women of different racial and sexual backgrounds experiencing sexual assault and their subsequent recovery (or lack thereof). The music video portrays acquaintance rape between a woman and her friend, date rape committed by a fellow student who puts drugs in two girls’ drinks at a party, and a woman who is assaulted specifically for her non-heteronormative gender and sexual expression. Filmed in black and white, the overlapping scenes feature very blunt depictions of the dangerous situations many women face while attending university. To really emphasise the main argument, the video ends with the statement, “One in five women will be sexually assaulted this year unless something changes.”
Powerful voices in pop culture are also working to spread awareness and prevention strategies. In the recent ‘It’s On Us’ campaign put on by the White House in America, the US government pooled celebrities such as Matt McGorry, John Hamm, Kerry Washington, Randy Jackson, and more in Public Service Announcements about sexual assault prevention. In a string of statements about consent and recognizing dangerous situations, the ‘It’s On Us’ PSAs work to create a network of people who are knowledgeable and willing to help in the prevention of sexual assault. But these sources acknowledge that not all sexual assaults are prevented.
According to the National Union of Students, of about 2,000 students from over 600 student unions nationwide, one in four students had dealt with inappropriate touching or groping. Over half of the respondents believed that women were more vulnerable than men. While most sexual assault is perpetrated against women, there are still cases of sexual assault against men. This survey included both men and women in responses about their own sexual assault.
In and around the University of Strathclyde campus there have been 42 violent or sexual crimes in 2015, according to the UK Crime Statistics. While we don’t like to think about the people we know being sexually assaulted, it is a common occurrence on UK campuses. So if you see something, say something. The website for ‘It’s On Us’ gives readers tips on how to prevent sexual assault when you see a dangerous situation underway. There are resources not just for those who have witnessed sexual assault, but for those who have gone through it too. ‘Stop it Now! Scotland’ is a campaign against sexual assault in Scotland. You can find a list of helplines and support networks for all who have been through sexual assault at stopitnow.org.uk. ‘The Women’s Project’ has sources for victims of assault, abuse and violence as well as information about reporting and awareness. Your school, the University of Strathclyde, also has resources for those who have been sexually assaulted as well as rights for those facing discrimination or intimidation based on their sexual assault. Look up the ‘Dignity and Respect’ policy on the university’s website or contact your local Resident Advisor or executives at the Student Union.
And for those committing the sexual assault, just stop. Enough is enough.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);