“Til It Happens To You” calls out sexual assault on campuses


by The Simpsonian Editorial Board

Till your world burns and crashes

Till you’re at the end, the end of your rope

Till you’re standing in my shoes,

I don’t wanna hear a thing from you

From you, from you, cause you don’t know

Till it happens to you, you don’t know

How I feel

Lady Gaga’s newest music video, “‘Til It Happens To You,” boldly tackles the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. While the song itself is provocative and powerful, the video is in another realm.

The opening of the video presents a warning to viewers about the “emotionally unsettling” material to follow. While the message serves as a trigger warning to survivors of sexual assault, it also pushes the point of the song and video. “The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses.”

The video comes at a prime time, as the American Association of Universities released data Monday from a survey of 150,000 undergraduate students. Representing 27 schools, including Ivy League colleges, the data showed sexual assault and misconduct rates ranged from 13 percent to 30 percent across the campuses, including Iowa State University.

Iowa State was the only Iowa college part of the study. Sixteen percent of undergraduate students at Iowa State responded to the survey. Of that number, 19 percent of women and three percent of men said they were victims of non-consensual sexual contact.

Thirteen percent of students said sexual assault is very or extremely problematic at the school.

Last year, Simpson College’s Sexual Assault Response Advocates created t-shirts stating “I support the 22%” to show support for the reported 22 percent of Simpson students who have been sexually assaulted.

I wore one of those shirts. I want to stand with the 22 percent who reported. I want even more to stand with 100 percent of victims of sexual assault, no judgements made or insinuating questions asked.

As Lady Gaga said, I don’t know how it feels. I am not the one woman in four who has been sexually assaulted during college, but I could have been. I still could be. And if nothing is done besides taking surveys and reporting the results, every student at every college will only become more likely to be assaulted.

According to the AAU survey, close to one in four women will be sexually assaulted during college. Transgender and non-identifying students are at a risk of 24 percent. For men, 5 percent of respondents reported sexual assault, combining to half of all respondents reporting sexual assault or misconduct.

That is outrageous. How many surveys, reports, crimes have to happen before anything is done about this epidemic? And yes, I said epidemic. A student being attacked on campus, in his or her room, anywhere is a preventable issue and happens far too often.

Talk about consent. As the Agents of Change at Simpson said, “Would you like some tea?” If it’s a no, or the partner is incapacitated or has consumed any alcohol, do NOT give that person tea. The same goes for sex. It seems simple and silly, but that one question marks the difference between consent and sexual assault.

It shouldn’t and doesn’t have to happen to you to be able to help a survivor of sexual assault. Listen to survivors. Support survivors. Believe survivors. That person has been through enough without enduring judgement and shame from anyone else.

It’s On Us to end sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses. It’s on Simpson to end it here. Take the pledge: itsonus.org