Lady Gaga has always been political, but some of the messages in her music videos have been open to interpretation, charged but not pointed. Now more mature, her latest explicitly highlights an issue of social justice: Lady Gaga's "Till It Happens To You" video is about sexual assault on college campuses. The video for her emotional song is directed by Twilight director Catherine Hardwick, and it features chilling scenes of staged sexual assaults and their aftermaths, with a warning at the beginning of the haunting moments that are to come.
The lyrics to "Till It Happens To You" were co-written by Gaga and songwriter Dianne Warren, and they ask those who tell victims how to cope, or pretend to understand their assault, to try and stand in their shoes. It's a call for empathy and support, made even more clear by the stark video. Gaga tweeted the link on Friday, writing that she and Warren made it "for people all over the world who suffer from painful life experiences," following it up with "We hope u feel our love&solidarity through the song & perhaps find some peace in knowing u r not alone through this film #TilItHappensToYou [SIC]." She also tagged the movie that the song appeared in, The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, as well as promised that a portion of the proceeds for the song would go to organizations helping survivors.
Here is the "Till It Happens To You" video, which, as a warning, features graphic and emotionally intense simulations of sexual assault.
The film ends on an uplifting note, with victims coming together by sharing their experiences. It also ends on the sobering statistic that one in five college students will experience sexual assault on a college campus this year. This fact lines up with previous data on the epidemic of college sexual assault; around 19 percent of female college seniors surveyed said that they had experienced sexual assault during their time in college.
The documentary for which Gaga wrote the song, The Hunting Ground, was released in February of this year to provide a harrowing look at the epidemic. Creators Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering followed up their 2012 military rape documentary The Invisible War with this sexual assault film, which drew attention to a few instances of assault, as well as shedding light on the larger problem. The film was critically acclaimed for its emotional tone and call to action.
For those who haven't seen the film, it's being screened at many college campuses, and in theaters, and it's also available on iTunes. The film has been used to promote The Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which aims to make colleges more accountable for sexual assaults. There is a lot of information available on how to participate in the movement, promote awareness, and cope with assault on their website. All these personal stories and voices for change ask everyone — no, demand that everyone — practice empathy and, as Lady Gaga implores, take a moment to stand in someone else's shoes. It's the very least that can be done in the face of such a horrifying social issue.