The normally celebratory Grammys took a serious and important turn when President Obama appeared on screen to bring awareness to the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, aimed at ending violence against women. In the pre-recorded message, Obama reminded the audience, and us, that it is no one’s responsibility but our own to put a stop to this extremely urgent problem. The facts, he reminded us, are sobering. “Nearly one in five women in America have been a vicitim of rape, or attempted rape,” he says. “And more than one in four women have been the victim of domestic violence.” He said this while Chris Brown, who attacked Rihanna on the eve of the Grammys in 2009, sat in the audience. On As many people on Twitter pointed out, Brown wasn’t the only perpetrator of violence against women in that audience, and they’re right. But Brown and Rihanna are both very famous, and for better or worse, theirs is the defining incident of this plague.
After Obama spoke, domestic violence activist and survivor Brooke Axtell took the stage and delivered a blazing spoken word performance. “After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me,” she told the crowd. “I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me...My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me.” It was chilling, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring. She continued: “If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honor and respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love. Please reach out for help, your voice will save you. Let it part the darkness, let it set you free to know who you truly are: valuable, beautiful, loved.”
Following Axtell’s speech, Katy Perry took the stage and delivered a performance of “By the Grace of God,” in what was essentially the opposite of her Super Bowl halftime show. You can watch all three videos below, and for more information on how you can help stop domestic violence, please visit the website for It’s On Us and follow Brooke Axtell on Twitter.