Pop superstar Lady Gaga — also known to millions worldwide as Mother Monster — opened up about the lasting trauma she experienced after she was sexually assaulted at 19 years old. In the premiere episode of The Me You Can't See, a docuseries co-created by Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey, Gaga spoke about suffering from a breakdown after being raped.
"I was 19 years old, and I was working in the business, and a producer said to me, 'Take your clothes off,'" she said. "I said no. And I left, and they told me they were going to burn all my music. And they didn't stop. They didn't stop asking me, and then I just froze and I just...I don't even remember." She then disclosed to the audience: "the person who raped me dropped me off pregnant on a corner."
She went on to describe the delayed traumatic response resulting from the sexual abuse. "First I felt full-on pain, then I felt numb, and then I was sick for weeks after," Gaga said. "I realized that it was the same pain that I felt when the person who raped me dropped me off pregnant on a corner [by] my parent's house because I was vomiting and sick."
But it wasn't until around 2018 that she really hit a wall and suffered a breakdown. "I had a total psychotic break, and for a couple years, I was not the same girl," she said. At that point, she cancelled several concert dates on her Joanne world tour.
Gaga first spoke openly about her diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2016, but she opened up about the attack two years earlier in an interview with radio DJ Howard Stern. "I was a shell of my former self at one point," she told him. In her latest TV appearance, she revealed the emotionally exhausting experience of suffering from chronic pain and receiving multiple MRIs and scans that led to nowhere. "The way that I feel when I feel pain is how I felt after I was raped," she told Oprah. "They don't find nothing, but your body remembers."
Sexual violence most often occurs at the hands of someone the victim knows. In the U.S., one of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Further, each year, 433,648 Americans ages 12 and older are the victim of sexual assault or rape.
Gaga has described her trauma recovery as a "slow rise," noting that she might "have six brilliant months [and] all it takes is getting triggered once to feel bad." But she also told Oprah last year that she holds space for "gratitude, even in the midst of the pain." It's what gets her through even her darkest times.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please visit Shelter Space.