Lady Gaga Voices Support for a Proposed Crackdown on Campus Sexual Assault
Lady Gaga has collaborated with Tony Bennett, Beyoncé, and R. Kelly, but her latest pairing—with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—is intended to bring legislative change in her home state.
The singer and the politician cowrote an op-ed, published in Billboard magazine on Monday, that supports Cuomo's proposed campus sexual assault bill, which would require New York universities to adopt affirmative consent policies, or explicit, voluntary agreements between sexual partners. The bill, which would apply to both public and private universities, is intended to expand on an existing "yes means yes" policy at State University of New York schools.
"Today, too many college students experience sexual assault, too few of the assailants are prosecuted, and too often the survivors lack the resources they need to recover," the duo wrote. "Sexual assaults are not just violations of local campus rules—they are crimes that must be treated as such." Gaga, a survivor of sexual assault as a teen, told Howard Stern last year that she suffered paralyzing trauma as a result of her assault.
Cuomo's bill is not without precedent: Last year, California became the first state to pass such a bill, which requires schools receiving state funding to adopt an affirmative consent policy. Cuomo is rallying to enact what he calls the country's "toughest law" in protecting campus rape survivors.
The proposed legislation would also ensure that those found guilty of sexual assault would either be suspended or be expelled. It's a significant policy considering that just 10 to 25 percent of students found responsible for sexual assault were expelled from campus, according to a 2010 analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
The New York bill, which lawmakers are set to vote on by June 17, comes as campus sexual assault has become a major media focus. Both the Sundance documentary The Hunting Ground and Columbia University grad Emma Sulkowicz's mattress performance project serve as biting critiques of college administrations that fail to enact policies to prevent sexual assault and protect survivors of it. Sulkowicz vowed to carry her mattress around campus until the student she accused of rape was expelled. Because that never happened, she lugged the mattress straight to her college graduation ceremony.
So, why should you care? A new study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that campus assault has reached "epidemic levels." Eighteen percent of female students reported being either raped or the victim of an attempted rape in their first year at an undisclosed upstate New York university, according to the survey of 483 first-year women.
While the research was conducted based on a relatively small sample at one school, it echoes the common statistic that one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during her time as a student. The figure has been repeated in White House speeches, and it was the driving force behind President Barack Obama's 2014 task force on preventing campus sexual assault.