The Oscars have long been a platform for social activism. The 88th Academy Awards certainly saw its fair share of advocacy, but one performance in particular brought some of Hollywood’s biggest names to tears on Sunday.
Lady Gaga gave an emotional performance of her Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. Gaga appeared on the stage flanked by survivors of sexual assault, and was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, who urged viewers that changing a culture of sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility.
Annie Clark, Andrea Pino and Fabiana Diaz are all survivors of sexual assault and advocates for ending sexual violence. The three of them appeared on stage together with 48 other survivors of sexual assault (including Lady Gaga herself) during Gaga’s performance on Sunday.
Clark said originally only a few survivors were planned to appear on stage, but the number grew in the weeks leading up to the Oscars to demonstrate -- on one of the world’s biggest stages -- just how pervasive sexual violence really is.
“One of the things we say is that anybody could be a survivor [of sexual assault],” Clark said.
This was evident on the Oscars stage last night, where many of the survivors who had never met before shared one unfortunate bond despite their diverse backgrounds.
Each of the survivors displayed different messages written on their forearms, including “Not alone,” “Not your fault,” and “We believe you.” The last phrase is something Clark feels is extremely important for a survivor of sexual violence to be told: “It’s always the last thing they hear," she said.
Pino was happy to take the stage in front of some of the most influential people in the world. “We are rarely in a place where we get to see who our audience is, and knowing that there’s Hollywood’s most powerful people out there ... people in positions of power need to talk about these issues and I hope people start bringing these conversations back to the industry," she said.
Diaz said that she’s always wanted to attend the Oscars, but even so, “as amazing as this weekend was, I would take it all back. If you have the option to not have this [assault] happen, I would take it all back.”
The three women agree that the encouragement and support they received from some of the most powerful figures in Hollywood is essential for bringing dialogue about sexual violence into the mainstream.
Diaz just hopes that outpouring of support in the hours since the performance isn’t fleeting.
“I want that emotion that people felt to not be for a moment ... for [survivors] it’s not for a moment, it’s our whole lives," she said.