by Julia Trainor
One of the most vivid memories I look back on from my middle school days is screaming the lyrics to “Tik Tok” at school dances or on bus rides with my softball team. While I was too young to attend concerts, my friends and I loved Kesha’s music, as it provided the perfect soundtrack to a sleepover or a trip to the mall. Wherever we were, the poppy, upbeat songs would momentarily allow us to escape any negative thoughts, and feel genuinely happy for the time being. Kesha’s new songs followed us into high school, but as her music production became stagnant, I began to wonder where she went and what happened to the lively songs I used to love. Unfortunately, she stopped making music for reasons unfathomable to her fans.
On Friday, February 19th, a New York City judge ruled against singer Kesha’s request to leave a contract with her sexually abusive producer, Dr. Luke. Kesha first made allegations of sexual and emotional abuse in 2014, filing a lawsuit and stating the multiple incidents where the Sony producer forced her to take drugs, made sexual advances, and harassed her about her weight over a period of ten years. As of right now, Kesha’s contract permits recording only under Dr. Luke, and her struggle to escape this dangerous agreement is not only a fight for her career, but also a fight for herself. Unfortunately, a judge has sided with the producer. Kesha, brave enough to come forward in the first place, has lost her battle. Upon hearing the verdict, she sobbed in the back of the courtroom on Friday.
While this case went through the American Judicial system and defense on either side was substantial, it speaks volumes about the way we view violence against women in this country. What does it say about our society when a legal document holds more value than protecting the security, safety, and emotional and physical health of a woman? Think about the message this case gives rapists and abusers. You can abuse and emotionally destroy a young woman trying to work and support herself. But don’t worry, you can still keep your job, have legal authority over her career, and receive no jail time. Americans often criticize rape victims for coming out “too late.” They often say, “Why didn’t she just tell someone earlier? Couldn’t she be making this up now?” Such comments filtered heavily throughout the Bill Cosby case last month, when dozens of women accused the actor of sexual assault.
But have these commentators ever stopped to look at the statistics about rape cases handled by law enforcement? Have they listened to women who faced incredible setbacks after telling the truth? According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, a staggering 98% of rapists never spend a day behind bars. Approximately 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Coming forward against someone you know, especially when that person holds a position of power over you or your loved ones, can be terrifying. DNA evidence collected from the victim often sits in storage facilities for years, as many counties do not have the financial resources to run the DNA through the system and potentially match it to a perpetrator. Coming forward forces the victim to relive the horror. Also, facing a culture that has been trained to automatically question the victim rather than the rapist puts the woman in a position to be scrutinized by society. Bystanders often ask what the victim was wearing, if she was drunk, or if she put herself in a sketchy situation. However, these interrogative questions imply the victim herself did something wrong and initiated the assault. It’s no wonder women are often reluctant to come forward. Maybe a victim was thinking about coming forward yesterday. Maybe she turned on the TV and saw Kesha crying in a courtroom. Maybe she got the judge’s message loud and clear: I don’t believe you. Even if I did, the law presides over your emotional and physical well-being. Live with it.
As college students, we are the future educators, lawyers, and even creative expressionists of the next generation. It is our responsibility to lead by example. We must question these issues, instead of accepting sickening legal rulings. We must act on our moral obligation to support women when they need our help. We must prioritize our fight against sexual assault in this country. #FreeKesha