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Last night Lady Gaga moved the world with her powerful and emotional performance of her Oscar nominated song ‘Til It Happens to You.’  The song was co-written with Diane Warren for The Hunting Ground, a documentary centered around two young women who took the investigation of sexual assault on college campuses into their own hands after their university failed them.


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The documentary was created with the mission to dispel the crisis of campus sexual assault.  It shed light on the stories of survivors, which in turn exposed how universities accross the nation failed to provide the victims with the necessary support.  Lady Gaga’s song perfectly complemented the mission and provided the counterpoint for those in society who blame and shame the victims.  In the opening Gaga cried the lyrics with passion, ‘Tell me how the hell could you know, how could you know, till it happens to you, you don't know, how it feels.’  This sentiment echoes throughout the song empowering those who listen and are survivors, and demanding more empathy from those who listen and are supporters.

Joe Biden introduced Lady Gaga’s performance with a short and concise speech loaded with agency, "Let's change the culture.  We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man like the survivors that you see tonight will have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?' They did nothing wrong. Take the pledge at ItsOnUs.org."


Lady Gaga moved millions last night but that’s not enough.  It’s on us.  We need to take action.


The fact of the matter is 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men are sexually assaulted while in college.   A recent study released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in January 2016 found ‘10.3 percent of undergraduate female students experienced sexual assault (defined as rape and/or sexual battery) just during the 2014 to 2015 academic year.’

Moreover ‘the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the incidence of reported rapes rises precipitously on game days at D-1 football schools.’  The culture especially in sport-centric universities perpetuates a god-like complex in the sports stars supported by the NCAA, the Sports Directors, the Presidents of universities and the alumni.  When universities are dependent on sports for significant monetary endowments, that puts the administrators in a skewed balancing act where the victims are always left silenced.  Fraternities present the same problem at several colleges.

The facts cannot be ignored.  The Hunting Ground reiterates this call to actions, as does ‘Til It Happens to You.’  Lady Gaga moved millions last night but that’s not enough.  It’s on us.  We need to take that empathy we so strongly felt last night as she sang her heart out and use it to inspire us to demand more; more from our peers, from our universities, from our government, from our society.


Let's change the culture so that no abused woman or man will have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?'



Gabriella Bower is a student at New York University.  Her two passions have always been fashion and philanthropy and she works to incorporate both aspects into her life as often as she can.  Read more of Gabriella’s work ranging from current trends to short essays and social justice oriented posts on her blog Read Between the Hemlines.


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