Lady Gaga Invited Sexual Assault Survivors to the Oscars in a Show of Solidarity

The singer performed her Oscar-nominated song ‘Til It Happens to You.’

Lady Gaga performs at the 88th Oscars on Feb. 28. (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Feb 28, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

“It happened to me.” “Unbreakable.” “Survivor.”

Those were just some of the messages scrawled on the outstretched arms of the men and women who joined Lady Gaga on stage at the Oscars on Sunday night. Her emotional performance, which aimed to raise awareness about sexual assualt, brought many in the crowd to tears.

“Let’s change the culture,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who earned a standing ovation while introducing Gaga. “We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man like the survivors you will see here tonight ever feel that they have to ask themselves, ‘What did I do?’ They did nothing wrong,” he said.

Biden urged viewers to participate in the White House campaign It’s On Us by taking an online pledge to identify sexual assault and to intervene in situations where a person may be in danger. The initative was launched in 2014 with the goal of curbing rape on college campuses and educating Americans about consent. It wasn’t the first time the administration promoted the campaign during a televised award show: President Barack Obama endorsed the initiative during the Grammys last year.

RELATED: Do We Need a Bill of Rights for Sexual Assault Survivors?

An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her time in college, and of those assaults, just 12 percent are reported, according to White House statistics. A report released last year by the Association of American Universities shows the number could be even higher: Nearly one in four women surveyed said they’d been sexually assaulted since enrolling in college.

The Hunting Ground, the documentary for which Gaga recorded the Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens to You,” illuminates some of the stories behind the statistics. The film profiles campus assault survivors, focusing on the challenges they faced while attempting to report their assault to school administrators. The lyrics and the video for “Til it Happens to You” also tackle the subject of campus rape, and Gaga wrote on Twitter in September that some of the proceeds from sales of the song will benefit organizations to help survivors.

The singer and activist, who campaigned in New York last year in support of the passage of one of the country’s strictest sexual assault laws for college campuses, has been vocal about her own experience as a survivor of abuse. Shortly before she performed at the Oscars, Gaga posted a photo of her and fiancé Taylor Kinney on Instagram. “I never thought anyone would ever love me because I felt like my body was ruined by my abuser,” she captioned it. “But he loves the survivor in me.”