The Blog

Owning the Pain of Sexual Assault through Melodies

The songs being created by the young cover everything, from how to deal with rape as a society, to loving yourself enough to know when you should engage in sexual activity with another person.

There are many adjectives to describe sex - exhilarating, messy, awkward and pleasurable being a few choice words. For some, it's the accumulation of a flirtatious exchange and for a significant percentage of the world which is far too high, an unwelcome and uninvited weapon of assault.

Lady Gaga's performance of her Oscar-nominated song Til it Happens to You at the 88th Academy Awards put the subject of sexual assault front-of-center of a global stage. You couldn't shy away from its powerful message or turn a blind eye to the survivors of egregious sexual abuse who joined her on stage. Their arms were imprinted with the words ''not my fault' in bold letters as a reminder that this violent crime should not be a taboo subject to discuss in the open.

Clearly this is not the first or last time music has been used as a vehicle to educate the masses on the epidemic of rape. I've recently been reading about an initiative called Love Matters; a project that uses social media and music to inspire social change in India, China, the Arab World, Latin America and Africa on sexual education among young teenagers and children.

The Institute of Development Studies researched Kenyan's sexual attitudes and experiences to get a real grasp on the sexual well-being of young people from around the world. They found that 12 and 13 year-old children had already begun engaging in sexual activities and more worryingly, these children were mistaking a violent sexual experience (which they knew was, or post-identified as, rape) as a typical standard of intimacy.

These discoveries led to the genesis of the Love Matters Music Awards , the first initiative of its kind in the country which allows children and teenagers to produce songs on themes related to sexuality to help instigate important conversations and at the same time, provide an outlet to survivors of sexual assault.

The songs being created by the young cover everything, from how to deal with rape as a society, to loving yourself enough to know when you should engage in sexual activity with another person.

Joshua Omari, a 19 year-old student, born and raised in the western highlands of Kenya was recently named the Judges' Choice with his song "Dot.Com". For Omari, getting involved in the project was a life-changing decision. After hearing his classmates open up about being taken advantage of and even being hurt physically and emotionally by the people who ought to have been protecting them, he tried to make sense of it all through music.

"My conscience couldn't let me rest", he said, "Armed with these personal confessions, as well as so much new information, how could it? Our parents aren't talking to us about this stuff and neither are our teachers. I wanted to stand up and tell some of these untold stories." became Omari's lament for his generation:

"Sexual violence and rape - just to mention but a few - are the order of the day", he continues, "I passionately believe we can't just close our eyes and ears and assume they are not happening."

The figures speak for themselves. Every 107 seconds, a person is sexually assaulted in America, in Europe up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.

Creating socially conscious music which address issues that plague younger Millennials across the hemispheres is much needed; the Oscar performance proved that. We need to give a voice to those who feel stifled and unheard through a medium that touches everyone.

Til it Happens to You and are tracks that provide hope. They have the power to shift mindsets through chords and melodies. To para-phrase the great William Shakespeare; 'If music be the food for change, then play on."