“You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time. You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together, you’ll be fine.
Tell me, what the hell do you know? What do you know? Tell me how the hell could you know? How could you know?” ~ Lady Gaga, “Till It Happens To You”
When I saw Lady Gaga’s new video for “Till It Happens To You,” my first thought was:
“God, I’m lucky.”
I’m lucky because as a 32-year-old woman, I have never been sexually assaulted.
I’m lucky because the unwanted stares and nasty comments I’ve endured from men have never ended in rape.
I’m lucky because every time I’ve shared my body with someone, it has been 100 percent by choice.
The video—recorded for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rape on college campuses—was a heartbreaking reminder to me that so many women are not as lucky. It was frightening to learn that one out of every five women in college is sexually assaulted every year.
I say luck because no woman walks through the world asking to be sexually assaulted. And the all-too-common reaction is to blame a woman’s choices—what we wear, how much alcohol we drink, who we surround ourselves with.
I say “luck” because until we change the way our society views women and power and rape, whether I join the women in this video depends solely on chance.
There have been too many nights when I’ve left my house in clothes that show all my curves, enjoyed multiple whiskey sours and been surrounded by more strangers than friends. Yet I’ve made it home safe and unharmed, every single time.
And what about the women who have been raped while stone-cold sober, dressed in sweatpants and hanging out with friends? What choices did they make to justify being attacked?
We need to change our focus and start examining why some men are so comfortable violating women. Why don’t they see women and women’s bodies as worthy of respect? How do they justify their choices?
And while we search out the answers to these questions, we need to follow Gaga’s lead and support survivors of sexual assault. We need to be there. We need to listen.
We need to show survivors they aren’t alone.
We need to avoid cliched motivational speeches and quit acting like we know. Because if we’ve been lucky enough to be spared the terror, shame and sadness—we really don’t know.
Author: Nicole Cameron
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: YouTube screenshot