"You told me it gets better in time," Lady Gaga sings in her latest ballad, "Til It Happens To You." Its lyrics tell the story of a rape survivor who rejects bad advice in the search for respect deserved. The song was produced in collaboration with The Hunting Ground, a nuanced documentary about institutionalized injustice regarding sexual violence on college campuses; part of the song's sale proceeds will fund organizations working with survivors.
The video includes depictions of rape scenes and the resulting traumatic impact of sexual violence. The survivors drop out of college and struggle to stay connected to those around them. But the video ends, optimistically, with scenes of survivors who are comforted and empowered by their connections with fellow survivors and the wider community. Exposing the injustice of sexual assault is commendable (and difficult) work, and Gaga is one of the most outspoken pop artists of her age regarding matters of equality and social justice; she has even brought attention to her own assault experience before.
Survivors of sexual assault deserve more than cliché advice
The careless advice that the survivor receives, as described by the song's lyrics, includes insensitive, cliché statements like "you'll be fine" and "be strong."
While friends and family may find it difficult to express sincere empathy without using clichés — it's not impossible, and acknowledging an offense has occurred is a first step toward revolving its consequences. The assaulted subjects in the video are roofie'd at parties, raped in bedrooms by friends, and assaulted in bathrooms. Besides being musically well-produced, it's refreshing to see a gender-neutral depiction of sexual assault.