CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - There were plenty of laughs at Sunday night's 88th Academy Awards ceremony, but the Oscars took a very serious turn with the appearance of Vice President Joe Biden on stage.
"We must change the culture," Biden said. "So that no abused woman or man like the survivors you will see tonight ever feel they have to ask 'what did I do?'"
The vice president introduced Lady Gaga's performance of the song "Til it happens to you."
The song was written for the documentary "The Hunting Ground" and explores the issue of sexual assault on college campuses across the United States.
Neither the movie, nor the song took home a gold Oscar statuette, but rape crisis workers say it was a winning night in the fight against sexual assault.
"Whenever survivors see someone like Lady Gaga, Joe Biden, or Ke$ha talking about sexual assault or even talking about their own experiences, they're more likely to say I can push this in a legal case, or I can tell someone X-Y-Z is someone who raped me," said rape crisis prevention educator Jasmin Creek with The Women's Center in Carbondale. "They're more likely to have perpetrators of sexual violence face consequences for their actions."
Lady Gaga's performance was accompanied by sexual assault survivors walking out on stage. The survivors had words or phrases written on their arms suck as "unbreakable," "Not your fault" and "Survivor." That symbolism had special meaning for Creek and others in her field.
"I think it shows the reality that we don't like to think about," said Creek. "Survivors in every day life don't have "survivor" written on their wrist. They're incredibly common actually even here in southern Illinois, and I think it's really important for us to recognize that if we want to end sexual violence. We need to recognize that we don't know who the survivors are, and that there are a lot of them."
Creek is hopeful that issue of sexual violence taking center stage on Oscar night will not only encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, but change the way some people treat them when they do.
"We live in a culture where people stay silent about sexual violence that happens to them. When people are sexually assaulted their first response is often to keep it to themselves," said Creek. "We really want to create a culture of believing survivors when they come forward about having been assaulted, and we also need to create a culture which places blame on the perpetrator and not the victim."
If you have been sexually assaulted, you can contact The Women's Center's emergency hotline at 1-800-334-2094 for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.