Earlier this year, Lady Gaga co-wrote and recorded a song titled, “Til It Happens to You.” The song is a haunting account of one woman’s experience as the survivor of sexual assault. The video for the song takes the viewer through the woman’s experience. It shows us the woman’s perspective from the act itself and then progresses on to her feelings of shame and guilt, culminating with the survivor’s decision to open up to friends and work through her experience so she can move on as a stronger person. The song accompanies a powerful documentary, titled The Hunting Ground, that looks at campus rape. In a recent TimesTalk panel discussion, Gaga shared the significance of the song to her as a sexual assault survivor. The lyrics of “Til It Happens to You” express a wide range of emotions including anger, frustration, determination, and empowerment.
Lady Gaga spoke briefly about her experience in an interview with Howard Stern earlier this year, telling him that the incident happened when she was 19 at the hands of a man 20 years older than her. She told Stern that a decade later she can laugh again thanks to “a lot of mental and physical therapy and emotional therapy to heal.” In TimesTalk, Gaga went into more depth about her experience. She told those at the discussion that she didn’t tell anyone about being raped for about seven years. She made these comments about its impact on her.
“I didn’t know how to think about it. I didn’t know how to accept it. I didn’t know how not to blame myself, or think it was my fault. It was something that really changed my life. It changed who I was completely.”
Vanity Fair reports that, like many women, Lady Gaga blamed herself initially. She believed that her provocative fashion style and persona were the reason for the attack. In addition to the emotional consequences of sexual assault, Lady Gaga talks about the long-term physical impacts that are not talked about much. She stated that “you re-experience it through the years after it, it can trigger patterns in your body of physical distress.”
“I didn’t tell anyone for, I think, seven years.”
— Martina Boone (@MartinaABoone) December 15, 2015
Hollywood Life reports that Lady Gaga felt it was important for the person singing the song to be someone who had experienced rape. The raw emotions of that experience came through in her performance in a way that likely would not have happened if she had not experienced the trauma she sang about. However, she also mentioned in her interview with Howard Stern that she didn’t want the experience to define who she is. Those who have been sexually assaulted, like everyone, is complex and is the product of all their experiences, not just one. She told Stern,
“I’ll be d***ed if somebody’s gonna say that every creatively intelligent thing that I ever did is all boiled down to one d—head that did that to me.”
Gaga believes the message of her song Til It Happens to You goes beyond sexual assault. She believes the song and the video’s message of hope and encouragement to reach out for support is important for people going through any experience that has left them feeling defeated and shameful. Since her appearance on the TimesTalk panel, Gaga’s fans have taken to social media to express their gratitude and admiration for her decision to speak out. They thanked her for having the courage to share her experience and some expressed that her words have given them hope for emerging victorious from their own sexual assault experience.
According to Lady Gaga’s IMDB profile, she was born in Manhattan with the name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. In her career, she has been many things, among them are songwriter, singer, actress, philanthropist, dancer and fashion designer. All of these accomplishments reflect who she is and defining her based only on her rape experience would be a major oversight and a failure to recognize her for her many talents. She comes from a line of ancestry that includes many nationalities including Italian, French-Canadian, English, German, and Scottish.
Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germonatta, introduced her at Billboard‘s annual Women in Music event on December 11. Billboard awarded Gaga with their 2015 Woman of the Year Award. In April this year, MTV shared an interview with Gaga’s mother about her childhood. In the interview, Germonatta talks about her daughter’s struggles with being accepted as a child. Other children were not accepting of the qualities that made her unique and different. She was often picked on for these qualities. Germonatta said the experience was painful for both of them and led to anger, anxiety, and bad choices by her daughter. Fortunately, Gaga was able to overcome this period of bullying and self-doubt to ultiately embrace her differences to become the superstar she is today.
Gaga says the rape experience changed her. She hopes that by opening up about it, she will encourage others who have been raped to move on and not allow that one experience to define who they are. As life-changing and traumatic as sexual assault can be, she wants people to feel free to talk about it and move on instead of blaming themselves or being afraid of talking about it.
“We don’t want you to keep your pain inside and let it rot like an old apple on your counter, you know?” she said. “It’s like, just get rid of all that trash. Let’s get rid of it together.”
— India Today (@IndiaToday) December 14, 2015
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Earlier this year, Gaga and her mother launched the Emotion Revolution, an organization whose goal is to build awareness about the influence of emotions on young people. It aims to educate people on how emotions influence the choices young people make. It also works to help children break free from damaging emotions they may be feeling and to reach the positive emotions they want to experience. In discussing the foundation, Gaga expresses her ability to empathize with those experiencing depression or humiliation because she has been through those emotions as well. She shares that when she went through those difficult times she wanted to understand why “that cloud was there at all.” She wants us to learn to embrace our differences and love ourselves.
Lady Gaga has received rewards and recognition in the entertainment industry for a wide range of accomplishments. Among them are a Golden Globe nomination this year for her performance in American Horror Story, two Primetime Emmy Award nominations (both for Outstanding Variety Special), winner of a Bambi Award in 2011, seven Grammy nominations, five Grammy Awards, two MTV Award nominations, winner of two MTV Awards, and five People’s Choice Award nominations.
The Hunting Ground looks at the problem of college campus rape. The Huffington Post reported earlier this year that nearly one in five college women are victims of either rape or attempted rape in their freshman year. Most of these incidents occurr during the first three months of the woman’s college experience. The period between when classes begin and Thanksgiving is often referred to as “the red zone,” the period during which female freshman students are at an especially high risk of experiencing sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault. This mirrors statistics indicating that in the general population, just over 19 percent of women are victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Experts suggest those statistics may understate the actual occurrence because sexual assault leaves so many of its victims ashamed and with a feeling of responsibility for the attack. Many who have been attacked fear the possibility of others blaming them, telling them they somehow encouraged the attack. Because of this, many women do not report the crime when it happens to them.
[Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images]