No celebrity has taken a firmer a stand against the normalcy of rape in the past few years than Lady Gaga. The jazz-conscious pop star used her platform again and again to highlight the painful reality of sexual assault, inviting survivors to stand beside her onstage at the Oscars, supporting other celebrities who have come forward with rape allegations and collaborating with politicians seeking reform for sexual assault legislation, both at the state and national level.
On that last note: Gaga also been careful to note that the country's laws are not the only thing that needs changing. The culture needs to change as well, as so many of the stories surrounding recent Stanford rape case have made clear.
Dismantling rape culture will not come from any legislature, as Gaga made clear during a December panel discussing her Oscar-nominated song about sexual assault survivors, "'Til It Happens to You." Instead, that change will come from the collective decisions of everyday individuals. As she put it, "You are culture."
"Not to take anything away from our politicians who are looking out for our country ... some of them," Lady Gaga said. "I really hope that anyone watching this today hears that the most important people to change the world is you. I'm not looking to the government to change my life; I'm not looking toward the next president; I'm not looking toward our next world leaders. I'm looking at everyone in this room. I mean, you are culture."
The steps she recommends people may seem easy: If you witness rape, "Say something."
"So if you care, and if your friend is going to rape someone in your fraternity or sorority, or in your school, or in a work situation, or in an alleyway outside a restaurant — whatever it is that your job is," Gaga continued, "if you say something and if you are a part of that greater world change, that is more powerful than any single person that's in office."
The truth of this has played out in the Stanford rape case. Two bystanders changed the outcome of this story for the victim to an immeasurable extent. They saw the rape occurring, intervened and held Brock Turner down until the police could arrive to arrest him.
"I can't understate how important those two heroes were in this case," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci told the Huffington Post on Monday. "Those two heroes made this case a prosecutable one."
Among other charges, Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape.
Unfortunately according to the AAU Campus Climate Report, only 33% of rape witnesses actually act. When they do, they change the entire game. People have the power, as Gaga asserted so powerfully last December. As long as people understand that, rape culture is not safe.
June 8, 2016, 6:54 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.