Til It Happens to You – Unpopular Response

By: Kellan Whitman

(Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault)

I may be alone on this one and that’s okay. I did not like this music video and would not recommend watching it. Lately, I’ve seen it being shared and in a way, that’s exciting. Seems like there has been a trend in people’s involvement with social issues recently which is wonderful. And after seeing friends post about the music video, I decided to watch. But I was left with mixed feelings.

Simply put, I am tired. Just exhausted of living in a society that is infatuated with violent sensationalism. After watching this video, I was reminded of news broadcasts on war zones. Footage of smoking rubble, cries of anguish and bloody, lifeless bodies. Many claim that this is what people need to see. It could be argued that most of us live a sheltered life and we need to witness these violent images because we need to have an understanding of what is going on in the world. All of this centers around awareness, I suppose. Well, being aware is something I support. But I wonder if seeing the suffering of others is imperative to us learning. Cameras being shoved in the faces of the mourning who aren’t even afforded the time to grieve. All in the name of awareness. Seems like exploitation to me.

Guess this is kind of a stretch, right? Comparing a music video which features multiple graphic scenes of rape to real life footage of death. These types of suffering aren’t meant to be compared and that isn’t my point. But rape is real too. And what the video was trying to illustrate is that this is an unaddressed, or poorly addressed topic that needs to be looked at. Which I definitely agree with, but where my agreement begins to wither is the way in which this topic is addressed.

Many parts of the video, I appreciated. It shows the seemingly endless ways that sexual assault hurts. Delving into its impact and how it finds a way to poison every aspect of a person’s life. And, it highlights the importance of supporting survivors, believing them and loving them. Not only that, but it shows hope. Shows that there can be growth and healing.

But couldn’t all of this had been done without the simulation of three graphic rape scenes? Some could say that we need this “hard hitting” kind of approach to get it across to some people. And unfortunately, to a degree, I understand and reluctantly agree. But I don’t think we should ever stop questioning why we need to see portrayals of rape before we understand how big of an issue it is. Couldn’t this issue have been explored without broadcasting such vicious acts in such a jarring way? And yet, it could be argued that sexual assault has been explored in numerous ways already, but to no avail. So maybe this is what our society needs?

I still don’t like it. Not fond of the weaponizing, stylizing and romanticizing of trauma that affect so many around us. To me, it doesn’t seem like it’d produce fruitful results. But perhaps I’m too close to the issue to see the bigger picture. Maybe this video will get people thinking. Promote and support movements of growth within our communities. Or maybe it will just further alienate survivors whose assaults don’t match up to the preconceived ideas surrounding assault and encourage the idea that it’s acceptable for us, as a society, to only care about an issue when it’s violently strewn in front of us.

My opinion is my own and in no way do I think it is inherently right or superior to others.

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