Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UD students among sexual assault survivors who joined Lady Gaga's Oscars performance

via LA Times
Survivors take the stage as Lady Gaga closes out her performance of the campus rape protest song "Til It Happens To You" at Sunday's Academy Awards.


University of Delaware students joined Lady Gaga and Vice President Joe Biden at Sunday night's Academy Awards for an emotional stand against sexual assault.

Student activist Sage Carson and her classmate Harry Lewis were among dozens of sexual assault survivors who walked onstage with fists outstretched and words like not your fault and it happened to me written on their arms. They stood tall as Gaga sang her Oscar-nominated song, "Til It Happens To You."


The song was part of the CNN documentary "The Hunting Ground," which Carson helped screen at UD last year. That's how she got involved with the performance, but she says she hadn't yet spoken out about her own experience.

"My activism has always been very much focused on making sure everyone else is okay and that this never happens to anyone else, or if it does happen to someone else, that they have the resources," Carson told Delaware Public Media from the airport as she headed back east Monday morning.

"So this was kind of one of the first times that I flipped it and started speaking about my own experience and taking that ownership," she says. "And that was a lot, and definitely very new. And it was pretty amazing."

Carson has led student efforts to reform UD's approach to sexual assault since her freshman year. Now a junior, she's interning with university Title IX coordinator Sue Groff. They've been working to educate students and staff about resources for survivors and the overhauled reporting process for sexual misconduct.

"When I came to college, I never expected that this would kind of be my reality. I was planning on doing music, and that's completely changed," she says. "It was very funny being onstage at the Oscars for being a survivor and being an activist instead of being a musician, which is kind of what I'd always wanted."

She fights back tears as she says the entire performance was hugely moving and surreal for her -- as was a moment she had the night before the Oscars with Vice President Joe Biden, who introduced Gaga's performance.

"Having the Vice President of the United States put his head on yours and say, 'it's never your fault,' is an amazing experience, and really shows how far we've come," she says.

Carson, who is from Seattle, says Biden was the reason she applied to UD in the first place. She says she felt he and others involved in the performance wanted to see real reform around campus sexual assault.

Though Gaga's song didn't take home the statuette -- the Academy Award went to Sam Smith's James Bond tune -- Carson thinks the "Til It Happens To You" performance was a major mark of progress.

Related Content