Buoyed by Lady Gaga’s emotional performance at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Jade Tolbert — who recently wed KC’s Tanner Tolbert after the two met on “Bachelor in Paradise” — revealed on Monday that she was sexually assaulted as a teenager.
In a post titled “Why Lady Gaga’s Performance Was the Most Important Part of the Oscars” on her blog, “Burn Bright, Love,” Tolbert wrote:
“I was raped just shy of my 17th birthday. My high school years were very hard for me, I had a lot of problems at home; and the way I tried to be normal and forget about my life was to party with my friends.”
She recounts what happened in some detail, saying she was left alone with a few guy friends one night and remembers “one guy holding me down while another got on top of me.” And how the next day, at home, things were “confusing. I found my jeans with blood spots all the way down a pant leg, and I was bruised black and sore.”
She says her father found her in her room “on the floor in my underwear, mumbling to him I wasn’t innocent anymore.” Despite that, she said she “never opened up to my parents about what happened” because she was afraid what they would think of her, or that they wouldn’t care. “My family was really good at sweeping issues under the rug.”
She did call one of the guys involved, who denied anything had happened. With the other guy, she was “afraid to confront him with the truth.”
Watching Gaga perform “Til It Happens to You” while surrounded by survivors of sexual assault brought Tolbert to tears. “It has been a long road to healing for me. There’s still a long way to go.”
She concludes with: “This happened to me and it matters. I matter. And I am worthy of love. The Lady GaGa performance gave me the courage to speak about my story, a story that’s been trapped inside me for over 12 years. I hope that sharing my experience will help girls and women know that they are not alone. And that you have to voice things in order for things to change. And always always always: You matter.”
Lady Gaga, a survivor of rape, co-wrote “Til It Happens to You” with Diane Warren for the documentary “The Hunting Ground.” Studies show that 1 in 6 women have experienced an attempted rape or a completed rape.
Tolbert’s post got many positive responses, including several from women who — sadly, frighteningly — had similar experiences. From Ashley: “Hi Jade, my story is very similar except I was 15 and it was a stranger at a party. That experience still haunts me to this day and I hate him for taking that “first” away from me. I can still remember every single detail of that night and I was ashamed to tell anyone. Unfortunately when I did finally tell my mother she told me I had put myself in that situation so essentially it was my fault.”
Tolbert, who moved to KC to be with Tanner, tweeted her story and received a supportive tweet back from Lady Gaga.