Jessica Ellis
February 29, 2016 1:54 pm
ABC

The questions about who will win what and how Leo will celebrate have already been answered, but one of the most poignant moments of the Oscars didn’t involve a movie star at all. Vice President Joe Biden dropped in to last night’s 88th Oscar Ceremony to share an important message with Hollywood and the viewers, and it’s one that definitely lingers past the memories of gowns and glitz.

The Vice President was there, oddly enough, to introduce Lady Gaga, who was performing her Best Original Song nominated composition “Til It Happens to You.” Once you learn that the song is from The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the horrifying saga of campus sexual assault, Joe Biden’s introduction makes a lot more sense.

After a standing ovation, the VP got right to what was on his mind. “Too many women and men, on and off campuses, are still victims of sexual abuse.” The upbeat tone of the evening immediately shifted to serious as Biden asked everyone there to take an important, and maybe revolutionary pledge.

“I will intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.”

The wording of this pledge is so critical to changing the way we think and talk about sexual assault. Too often, focus is put on how the victim should work to avoid their own assault, by dressing more modestly, not drinking, or not engaging in any sexual activity if they don’t intend to have sex.

By changing direction to the idea that the community is responsible for protecting victims and taking direct action to stop sexual assault, the conversation shifts away from victim blaming. As Biden continued, “we can and we must change the culture so that no abused woman or man…ever feels like they have to ask themselves ‘what did I do?’ They did nothing wrong.”

Biden then introduced Lady Gaga, who gave a stirring performance of her song, accompanied by dozens of sexual assault survivors with words like “Survivor” and “It Happened to Me” written on their arms. The affecting performance ended with Gaga, a sexual assault survivor herself, joining hands with the others on stage.

Biden’s speech and Lady Gaga’s performance clearly got to the gathered stars; many had tears in their eyes by the end and gave the performance a rousing ovation. A video surfaced last night of Oscar winner Brie Larson hugging each survivor as they exited the stage.

The speech and performance proved to be an important moment for Lady Gaga herself; she posted a moving photo of her and her boyfriend in the aftermath of the Oscars.

That one of the most famous and successful women in the world felt so unlovable and “ruined” by her abuse speaks volumes to the stigma and shame victims face. To learn more about Biden’s pledge and changing rape culture, check out ItsOnUs.Org

And if you’re a survivor of sexual assault, as always: We stand with you.

Watch the speech and performance in full below:

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