Lady Gaga song about sexual assault inspires national student singing competition

The contest is managed by the team behind 'The Hunting Ground', a ground-breaking documentary about the epidemic of sexual assault on student campuses


Rachael Revesz
New York
Thursday 24 March 2016 19:13
Hundreds of students across the country have sung their own versions
Hundreds of students across the country have sung their own versions

Students around the US have been inspired to sing their own cover versions of Lady Gaga’s Oscar-nominated song about her sexual assault in a bid to raise awareness of violence against women.

“Till It Happens To You” was co-written and performed by Lady Gaga for a pioneering documentary of rape on student campuses and how universities and colleges are failing to achieve gender equality.

The team behind the documentary “The Hunting Ground” are managing the singing competition and have received entries from universities and colleges in New York and Oregon to Arizona and California.

Voters have before 1 April to decide on the three finalists.

Those three singers or ensembles will be reviewed by a panel of judges including Diane Warren, who co-wrote Lady Gaga’s song, Lady Gaga’s mother Cynthia Germanotta and rapper LL Cool J.

The song with the most votes at the time of writing is a group called "Three Miles Lost" from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York.

A study from the Association of American Universities found last year that 23 per cent of female students have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.

It is not just women who are victimised; young men have also come forward.

Men have been widely involved in the competition, too. A popular entry is from an all-male group called "Profecy A Cappella" at Rowan University, New Jersey.

“The Hunting Ground”, currently available on Netflix, took a major step in exposing the epidemic of sexual assault across campuses in North America and how institutions have often sided with or protected the perpetrator to avoid scandal.

Lady Gaga’s song was nominated for an Oscar this year and she gave a powerful performance at the ceremony, flanked by survivors of sexual assault. She and Diane Warren lost the award to Sam Smith's "Writing's On The Wall".

The documentary found that further education institutions have had major financial incentives to protect perpetrators. In the same vein, these institutions could jeopardize their federal funding if they are proved to have discriminated against students based on their gender, a breach of so-called Title IX.

Many cases of sexual assault and rape that were reported in the documentary are ongoing or have only recently been resolved.

One recent case, covered in the documentary, was survivor Erica Kinsman, who was allegedly raped by Jamies Winston, a student who went to become a star football player.

Ms Kinsman recently settled with Florida State University and president James Thrasher said in a statement they settled out of an “obligation to the taxpayer”.