Unless you're a huge Aerosmith fan or you saw that scene from Not Another Teen Movie where the male lead "serenades" the female lead, then you probably never heard of Aerosmith's Janie Got A Gun.
While the video's funny, the content behind Janie's Got A Gun is not. The premise of the song: sexual abuse, rape, incest, and ultimately the death of the abuser. Janie is a sexual abuse victim who after several years of abuse by her father takes revenge. According to the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, 46 percent (46%) of children who are raped are victims of family members with the majority of American rape victims (61%) are raped before the age of 18. The song leads us to believe that Janie's father began to assault her when she was just a little baby.
Tell me now it's untrue
What did her daddy do?
He jacked a little bitty baby
The man has got to be insane
They say the spell that he was under
The lightning and the thunder
Knew that someone had to stop the rain
In 1995, local child protective service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse; of these, 75% were girls. Nearly 30% of child victims were between the ages of 4 and 7. Unless you count sexual assault cases against the Catholic Church or the news about teachers having relationships with their much younger students, sexual assault against children is rarely publicized, especially in the case of incest. Why? Though there are a number of cases where a young child has been raped by their family member, there is a stigma and incest cases are underreported. Incest is not a subject that is openly talked about , it's a taboo, and many find it uncomfortable and some family members would rather keep the shame of the abuse in the family. Which leads me to Janie. In the video, Janie has a mother, but it is "unclear" if she knew about the abuse or if she kept quiet because this was considered a family issue and didn't want to face the truth. Where does that lead the victim?
According to the 2007 Rape In Utah Survey found that only 12%, or 1 in 10, of victims of rape and sexual assault, reported the crime to police. Some people often wonder why rape victims don't report rape: Of the same victims who reported the assault to police, less than 3 (27%) of the rapists or sex offender was found guilty or pled guilty at the end of the criminal justice system and often times, especially in the case of incest, victims may feel shame and guilt, or believe like Janie no one would believe them. Because no one believed her, she took matters into her own hands, it was only after she was arrested (via lyrics, not video) that the truth about her abuse came to light. Often times because of the abuse, victims, males and female turn to unhealthy ways of coping such as substances and even exhibit signs of depressions, or in Janie's case, run away from the pain.
The message of Janie is so deep because it walks you through an issue that impacts not only the victim but society as a whole, it takes you through the emotion and removes a mask that society has placed on us, rape and incest happen, so does victim blaming/shaming. One of the most important lines: What did her daddy do, what did he put her through? The blame for once isn't placed on the victim.
We blame the father, the perpetrator and we empathize, sympathize with Janie-the victim/survivor.
In the last year, we've heard of cases where the perpetrator has been treated as the victim, where the blame has been placed on the survivor. The victims are forced to prove their innocence and sometimes to no avail. It may be toxic masculinity or even that society is afraid to dismantle normalcy, that we'd rather blame the innocent than to seek the truth, well until it's too late.
Fact: Steven Tyler inspiration for the song:"I got really angry that nobody was paying homage to those who were abused by Mom and Dad"
Fact: Janie was actually supposed to be Danny
This piece is part of our September series, A Collective Effort, lessons TV, Film, and Literature teach us about sex, and how each one plays a part on how we view sex (sex-related taboos) and sometimes reflect society's view of sex.