8 Women Respond to Halsey's Powerful Speech About Sexual Assault
BY SABRINA SOOKNANAN
January 20th marked the one year anniversary of the groundbreaking Women's March. As the government faced an unexpected shutdown, women (and men) came together to share powerful chants and cheers for the future of women.
Trigger Warning: The following contains language about sexual abuse and assault.
Among the many who showed up to the march to hold those in power accountable, 23-year-old singer/songwriter Halsey took the stage at the 2018 Women’s March in New York City to read a powerful poem about her experiences with sexual assault and rape.
"I don’t really know how to do a speech unless it rhymes," she said. "So I’m gonna do a little poem for you guys."
In "A Story Like Mine," Halsey takes us through difficult instances in her life. At 14, Halsey describes her experience accompanying her best friend Sam to Planned Parenthood after Sam was raped by a man they knew in an after-school program. She later talks about being forced into sex by a boyfriend in 2012.
"He's taken to forcing me down on my knees / And I'm confused 'cause he's hurting me while he says please / And he's only a man, and these things he just needs / He's my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?" she said.
Halsey also shares the painful experience of performing at a concert after a miscarriage. Back in 2015, Halsey revealed to Rolling Stone that she got pregnant during her 2015 Badlands tour. She later recounts being assaulted by "a man that I trust" in 2017.
"I've earned my protection, eternally clean / Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants / But I don't want none of that, I just wanted to dance," she said.
In the final stanzas of her poem, Halsey gives a compellingly strong message that reflects why the #MeToo movement is important in this day and age. She explains that nobody is safe, whether you're a celebrity or not. Halsey emphasizes that she is not the only one facing injustices and there are so many others fighting (or who have been fighting for so long), like US Gymnastics Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles, among other countless victims. Halsey leaves many in tears with strong hearts as she assures the crowd "there's a war to be won."
Watch the full speech below and read the full transcript.
I took some time to gather responses from young women and asked them how they felt about Halsey's speech. Read what they had to say below:
Flynn Osman, 18, New York, NY
Halsey, despite her standing, did something that is extremely hard to do. She shared her story. In today’s climate where it is much more supported to share the injustices that have been inflicted upon women, it is still hard. She shared multiple vulnerable pieces of her life in front of thousands of people. Pieces of life that, for a survivor, is difficult to visit let alone share with a giant crowd of people.
She not only shared one story of her own but she includes one of her friend and all of the others she experienced on multiple occasions. It shows that sexual harassment in any way shape or form is constantly happening. It is not something that happens once and goes away forever. This is something that happens on a daily basis spanning from catcalling to rape.
This movement, this revolution that is taking place is one that is long overdue. The last time the world was this active about women’s rights was the 70s when the movement first began. Ever since the idea has been there but has not been as heavily put into action as it has been recently.
Halsey’s poem was an act of courage, strength, feminine empowerment and support. As she states, “we are not free until all of us are free.” This is not a trend. This is a rebellion that will not rest until justice is claimed. We have long ways to go but if people continue to speak up as Halsey did yesterday, no matter who you are, where you are from, or what your story is. We MUST keep fighting.
Maya Krupa, 24, San Francisco, CA
Halsey's speech was an incredible and creative way to further expose the wretched dark side of our society day in and day out. Her words "every friend I know has a story like mine" should ring through the sound bells of every individual's minds, as they think of the profundity that every woman they know experiences harassment or assault in their lives.
Awareness is simply the first step. It is about changing dialogue, about changing cultural norms, societal stigmas, and day in and day out actions that encourage the oppression of women and their voice daily.
This brutal honesty and so much more is what we need from the leaders and women who have a platform, to shine light on those often forgotten, like the child brides Halsey mentioned.
Lára Ingileif, 27, Bronx, NY
It reminded me why I march, why I fight.
It reminded me of what older men did to me when I was young.
It reminded me when the condom ripped and I was 16, waiting in the waiting room at the clinic with my mom, feeling nervous and scared, waiting for my abortion appointment.
It reminded me of the time I dated an abusive guy who would degrade me to the point where all I could think about was what was the best way I could kill myself.
It reminded of the time I dated another guy who was also abusive and made me feel bad about who I was and what I stood for and made me start viewing sex as a chore, and how I cringed every time he would enter me or even touch me.
It reminded me of how damn angry I am. I am angry that we still have to deal with this shit, that we have to give each other advice on how best to protect yourself at night.
It’s a horrible thing knowing that we can all relate to what Halsey said but we just have to keep fighting because our fight has just begun.
Fatima Said, 21, Ottawa, Canada
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian
We as humans are incredibly complex, and our intersecting identities sometimes allow us to forget that in certain spaces we do not share the same level of oppression as others. In a heavily mediated society more and more people are entitled to voice their opinions. Those opinions are usually about how someone should deal with what they are going through. When Halsey said, "Ask her story and then shut up and listen," she was speaking to us all, and asking us to check our privilege at the door. That is what I appreciated most about her speech.
Maya Georgi, 20, South Jersey
The poem Halsey shared encompassed so many important aspects of the women’s movement; it was truly amazing. Not only did she bare her soul and vivid traumas, she also shined a light on how sexual assault and the overall mistreatment of women is alive and well in impoverished neighborhoods just as much as it is in Hollywood.
In that section of the poem, I loved how she was able to step out of her celebrity persona and realize how far this problem goes. I also loved that she wrote a rhythmic piece because it was such a signature way for her to handle the opportunity to speak. It also drove the message even further, with some lines still ringing in my head due to her rhymes. Perhaps the most impactful part of Halsey’s poem was the fact that her words moved me back to my own experiences -- terrible experiences that many women have unfortunately lived through too.
Though this made hearing it difficult, it also stirred a passion in me for things to change, which Halsey shares in the end. Halsey’s important reminder that us women must stand united now, in this defining moment, really connected the whole piece together. Now women’s voices are booming and we must utilize all the pieces of our ugly pasts, all the pain in order to fight back, just as Halsey did in this poem. We all must scream louder than ever, for a time when we couldn’t. Like Halsey says, "...this is the beginning, it is not the finale."
Pamela Ynoa, 21, New York, NY
When I read Halsey’s poem “A Story Like Mine” I felt a lump in my throat. I had to stop myself from reading each stanza because I imagined myself in her shoes and I imagined myself as her friend when she was in a Planned Parenthood. I felt the anger, the fear, the bravery in each word she delivered.
When I was in 8th grade I remember an old friend walking me home from her house and this black van started following us and claiming they needed help from us. Instantly we knew it was a lie and we were in danger. We repeatedly said no and I remember the fear and my body resorting to find safety. My friend and I had hid for a few minutes in the subway station. I was angry that these men in the van refused to take no for an answer from two middle schoolers.
It takes a lot bravery to tell your experiences to other people like family members and friends because some reactions can make our experience/trauma invalid. ‘Til this day I am terrified to walk home alone, even going to the bodega around the corner. I do not want to live my life in fear. Women have to suffer so much and the trauma we face stays with us even years later. We need to unify and support one another with no judgments and with open arms. We need to be safe places to each other and include every woman’s voices and stories.
Alissa Rosen, 19, New York, NY
My gut reaction after watching Halsey's speech for the first time was to cry. I was moved to tears. Sitting down and watching my idol, my inspiration, and my favorite artist deliver such a powerful speech made me feel more empowered and driven to fight for justice. I think Halsey's choice to write a rhythmic poem speaks volumes. She hooked me in when she spoke about her personal experience with sexual assault. Not only is the topic hard to talk about, but it is incredibly hard to talk about publicly.
She captivated the audience and touched men and especially women everywhere. I am deeply passionate about women's rights. It is so important that we all stick up for what we believe in and use our voices. We all have rights and a voice, we should use it! Public figures such as Halsey have a distinct advantage with using their status to reach a wide audience. Her speech, as well as many other women's speeches, raised the necessary attention for the current "Time's Up" movement. As all women continue to fight for our voices to be heard, Halsey gave us the strength and courage to never give up until change is seen.
Jessica Rozycki, 23, Jersey City, NJ
Halsey’s speech sent a clear message: there is no safety from sexual assault. Tied in with the #MeToo movement, her words are a reminder of just how many people share the same experience with assault and violence, regardless of identity, status, or age. Coupled with her outrage is a plea to take action. It’s not enough to recognize this truth.
It is all of our responsibility, our obligation as a community to speak out against violence and continue to work toward change for those who are voiceless, who lack access, and who are denied the right to take a stand. When she says, "Be a voice for all those who have prisoned tongues," she is not referring to one specific type of person. Survivors are not a monolith. There are multitudes. And it’s for each and every one of these unique individuals that we must keep fighting.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Other resources include the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVR), Anti-Violence Project, RAINN, End Rape on Campus, and Know Your IX.