“Till it Happens to You” encourages support of assault victims

Jasmine Fleming

“Sometimes I hate myself.”

These words flashed across the screen, written on a woman’s back, in Lady Gaga’s newest video, “Till it Happens to You.”

The video, released Sept. 17, shows several women before, during and after a sexual assault.

The Flor-Ala has run numerous stories on the campus climate survey results released this semester, and Life Editor Melissa Parker had a well-written editorial on rape myth acceptance, which is an apparent issue on our campus.

But what I got from this music video was an issue concerning sexual assault that we do not often address.

We discuss how to obtain consent and that in not doing so, any resulting sexual act is a crime. We also talk about the process for reporting sexual assaults by talking to a police officer, and, if the assault took place on campus, a Title IX coordinator or reporter.

But what this video showed goes even further. It showed how the victims felt after they were attacked.

In addition to the aforementioned phrase, “I am worthless,” showed on another woman’s arm.

It might seem obvious to someone who has not been sexually assaulted that an assault is not the victim’s fault or they should not feel terrible about themselves, but that is not always the case.

Sexual assault victims often experience depression, low self-esteem or post-traumatic stress disorder as long-term affects, according to the Shoals Crisis Center.

Another phrase, and possibly the most frustrating to me, written on one of the women said, “Believe me.”

Helping someone figure out who to contact and letting them know they have support after they have been assaulted is instrumental to helping them move forward, according to Start by Believing, a campaign geared toward teaching individuals how to support sexual assault victims.

“A police officer doesn’t believe and refuses to conduct an investigation. A doctor or nurse doesn’t believe and fails to provide an exam. A friend doesn’t believe and accuses the person of ‘crying rape.’ Just a single negative reaction can mean the whole chain falls apart.”

The chain Start by Believing is referencing is the list of steps someone takes when reporting assault (telling a friend, reporting it to the police, giving a testimony, etc.).

But as soon as individuals tell victims they do not believe them, the chain falls apart. After all, if a friend does not believe the victim, why would the police?

It would be naïve to say no one has ever lied about being the victim of a sexual assault. However, only law enforcement has the ability to make that determination. The best thing to do is to support people who say they have been assaulted and be there when they need a listening ear or any other assistance.

Whether a friend or someone you might not know well, if victims ask you to be there while they call the police or show up to a court date, be a link in the chain of support that helps get justice.

Do not let victims, or even possible victims, feel like they do not matter.