Content Warning(s): Rape, Rape Culture
Day fifteen! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!
"Til it happens to you, you don't know how it feels."
Lady Gaga's collaboration with Diane Warren for the documentary The Hunting Ground isn't the first time she explored the topic of being raped.
The year before it happened to me, she played a preview of her album ARTPOP for a livestream iTunes festival concert (NOT SXSW, that performance is extremely triggering for my emetophobia), and I heard the song "Swine." Before performing this song, Gaga gave an emotional monologue while slowly removing her wig and revealing her actual hair for the first time in many years. She went to the piano and admitted she never wanted to think about this topic again, but that she'd do it for her "little monsters." The lyrics of the song are pretty incriminating of the topic without directly stating what happened to her. But what stuck with me from that entire ARTPOP performance was the way she screamed "Swine" in the second chorus - chilling, full of rage, full of knowing she wasn't ready to say what she needed to say about survivorship through the lens of the regular, and not "art," pop scene.
As of this date on Netflix, the Hunting Ground is still available. I highly recommend watching it if you have access. It's a view of what's happening right now across the nation: college rapists not being held accountable for their actions, and survivors being mocked for their efforts to bring them to justice. Having personally experienced debilitating depression and the effects of PTSD in my post-college life, I can't imagine what it's like to go through that with the pressure of academia looming above me. (Granted, it would have given me a much clearer focus for my senior project, but I still wouldn't wish it on myself then, or any student then or now.) Seeing these young students being unsupported by their school is harrowing. And there are many other recent cases of documenting campus rape: the case of Brock Turner, "Campus Cover-Up," "Yeah Maybe, No," improperly-handled media scandals every year, and countless first-hand accounts on YouTube. I urge you to do research if any of these topics will give you comfort or inspiration.
Last year, my own alma mater went through its own struggle with Title IX and lack of proper justice for survivors. It was difficult to see emails in my inbox even then, even though my rape didn't occur when I was in college. I occasionally see alumna friends on Facebook posting about their experiences both when they were still students and now when the issue is still relevant and unresolved. My heart goes out to everyone who suffered during their time there, as clearly we weren't as safe as we were made to feel. Other than speaking up and standing with the alumni fighting the front lines, I still don't know what I can do to better help college students, especially since secondhand trauma is something I'm prone to experiencing. I avoided a meeting in honor of the students fighting the administration that I could have easily attended last year simply because in going to hear the stories of others, I feared I wouldn't have a safe place to decompress afterward.
Whether or not I'll be able to find a way to support campus rape survivors that feels safe and productive to me is still up in the air, but I can speak out about the issue in places like this to get people to talk about it. A survivor's education is far more important than a rapist's education or reputation, no matter whether the survivor has a low GPA or the rapist is the favorite athlete of an entire university.
I hope you can find the songs I mentioned above, and take a listen.
Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be very special, so stay tuned!
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