Lady Gaga talking about her PTSD after a sexual assault is something we all need to hear

While on the Today show Monday morning, Lady Gaga talked about her PTSD from sexual assault that happened when she was 19 years old. Gaga was in a segment visiting the Ali Forney Centre, an LGBTQ homeless shelter in New York City, and said, “The kindness that’s been shown to me, by doctors as well as my family and my friends, it’s really saved my life,” she said. She added that she struggled with the mental illness and that she meditates to help ease her anxiety and stay grounded.

Afterwards, she wrote on Twitter that she had “shared one of her deepest secrets” and linked to the video for everyone to see. It’s a good thing Lady Gaga can link her PTSD to her sexual assault, since it’s one of the side effects of rape that sometimes we gloss over. We talk about survivors struggling for the rest of their lives, but oftentimes that “struggle” and the recovery process is dealing with PTSD.

In fact, according to the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, 31 percent of all rape victims develop PTSD after their assault at some point during their lifetime. And one in 10 survivors, or around 11 percent, “still have PTSD today.”

Another study, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that 94 out of 100 women experience PTSD symptoms — thinking about the assault, nightmares, depression, anxiety, and insomnia — in the immediate two weeks after their assault. A lot of times the symptoms are underreported because of the shame and stigma attached to the assault. Even Lady Gaga herself, when she first talked about the rape, admitted that she remained quiet for almost 10 years because she blamed herself, which is common among survivors. And so the PTSD goes unchecked.

This is the same for men who suffer from PTSD, though men are more likely to have anger responses and troubling controlling it, while women are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. And those are two mental health issues that can sneak up on a person and lead to even more dangerous health problems, like substance abuse issues. The National Women’s Study found that women with PTSD are 13.4 times more likely to have an alcohol problem and 26 times more likely to have a “serious drug abuse” problem.

It can be a terrible cycle of self abuse, which is why Gaga speaking openly about rape and PTSD (and all the help she’s received from medical professionals) is such a big deal. Talking about PTSD, its symptoms, and the fact that it is a mental illness is essential when talking about rape. It’s never just about the assault — it’s about what survivors have to deal with every single day of their lives after the rape, too. And those consequences shouldn’t be a “deep” secret, but something survivors (and advocates) can talk about openly.