Why Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You” Deserves Our Attention, And Why It Deserves It Now

Note – Please be advised this article discusses graphic (but important) content.

The Internet has exploded with the release of Lady Gaga’s important, emotional, educational, chilling, haunting, necessary music video for her new song “Til It Happens To You.”

The song, in tune with its sobering title, calls attention to an issue many in society trivialize or miss altogether: the mass sexual assault of women and men on college campuses. The music video, released earlier this week from Interscope Records, is a perfect example of how art can—and should—be used to expose, affect, and ultimately (hopefully) change minds, college legislature, and the outdated fabrics of society.

But the song transcends merely reminding us of the reality millions of sexual assault survivors face on a daily basis. It holds a fiercely important distinction, one easy for the average friend, parent, or co-worker to miss: you don’t know how it feels till it happens to you. Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You” is an evocative reminder that support is not synonymous with understanding. Because understanding is impossible, and the idea that it is remains dangerous—it is a factor that silences, a hand over a survivor’s mouth, a counter-productive force that builds walls around the already-coddled misconceptions of sexual assault and consent in America today. Indeed, true support comes when we recognize that there is only one path to truly understanding the interior landscape of sexual assault survivors, and that resources and education must be made available and open so those who are survivors may connect with each other and obtain help from those who do understand.

The video showcases a Gaga that’s a far cry from the “Just Dance” songstress of years ago. The song itself was composed by Diane Warren for the incredible documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which has been making steady rounds among college students and others since its January debut. Says Warren of the project in an interview with the Huffington Post, “I didn’t want to sugarcoat it.” In a statement, video writer and director Catherine Hardwicke added, “I hope that this PSA, with its raw and truthful portrayals, will send a clear message that we need to support these courageous survivors and end this epidemic plaguing our college campuses.”

Brava, Gaga. Brava, Diane Warren and Catherine Hardwicke. This is the exact discussion topic that needs to be raised. This is the exact awareness that needs to be spread. Thank you for using art to open society’s ears and give voice to the millions of students silenced right in our own homes, right in our own schools, right under our own caring watch. It is not enough to hope for, pray for, or envision change. This song reminds us of that.

             The song’s haunting lyrics are as follows. Please read them and remember the world of college campuses, and society’s treatment of young adult men and women, needs to change, and it needs to change now.



You tell me hold your head up
Hold your head up and be strong
Cause when you fall you gotta get up
You gotta get up and move on

Tell me how the hell could you talk,
How could you talk
Losing till you walk where I walk,
This is no joke

Till It happens to you, you don’t know how it feels, how it feels
Until it happens to you, you won’t know, it won’t be real
No it won’t real
I know how it feels

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 or two from you, from you, from you

Till it happens to you
You don’t know how I feel, how I feel, how I feel
Until it happens to you, you won’t know, it won’t be real
No it won’t real
I know how it feels
Till it happens you
Happens to you
Happens to you
Happens to you
Happens to you
Till it happens you
You won’t know how I feel

Peter LaBerge

Peter LaBerge founded The Adroit Journal in 2010, as a high school sophomore. His work appears in Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, Pleiades, and Tin House, among others. He is the recipient of a 2020 Pushcart Prize.

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