Lady Gaga took center stage at this year’s Oscars when she performed to a standing ovation a song about sexual assault. Her courage to sing about this topic highlights the trauma of rape and the wounds it produces on those who survive such horrific experience. In her lyrics she denounces, “until it happens to you, you wont know how it feels” challenging the world to really sympathize with survivors’ pain. As she performed, I sensed a particular rage in her tone I have witnessed countless of times in survivors when they share their stories in the confidential space of my office. I have been told many stories of what happened and how no one seems to “get it.” I have listened anger to their strong statements of feeling invalidated. I have witnessed their wounds and pain of carrying a heavy story inside that seems to affect every single part of who they are. On top of all of that, they blame themselves.
Why they blame themselves? If no one seems to “get it,” maybe it means they are responsible for it.
No one seems to understand the humiliation of the “get yourself together” type of comment for a survivor of rape trauma. Friends, family, doctors, police, agency workers and therapists who do not get the complexity of the experience are also responsible for the perpetuation of shame and trauma in the life of survivors. And yet, after the minimization of their traumatic experience, they are not given permission either to be angry and express it in light of what happened. So Lady Gaga says, “Till it happens to you, you won’t know how I feel!” offering a venue, a release and permission for survivors to express their rage not only to the perpetrator but to a blind, dismissive and accomplice world. The song reminds survivors that, “It is not your fault.”
When survivors come to me for help and they begin to shed the layers of guilt and understand it was not their fault, we begin to create together a space for inner growth, strength and power. When survivors come to my office and suddenly have a space to express their rage and pain, they begin to take ownership of their story without shame. Life begins to make more sense. Together we begin to mend the broken pieces with understanding.
I really love Lady Gaga for giving survivors permission to feel their rage and permission for not taking the blame in any longer. I am not a neutral therapist about this matter. We can’t be neutral bystanders. I take up a position about this and I love it.
Psss...! Check Lady Gaga's video here.
Merari E. Fernández Castro,