If you know me, you know I have an unexplainable obsession with Kesha. If you don’t know me – hi, I’m Krysti. I eat too much ice cream and I’m obsessed with Kesha. (Real talk: I think those are the only two things some students in our youth group know about me…)
We don’t need to get into the origins of my obsession (who knows, really?) or the amount of times I’ve dressed up as Kesha (three), or even all my reasons for loving her (too many to list, C’MON). But we do need to be talking about a big issue here: Kesha just lost a law suit claiming abuse and rape, and is now stuck in a legal contract to keep producing music with her alleged attacker.
***I say claimed and I say alleged, because we don’t know what happened. I’m not pretending to know the truth here, neither should you. That’s the problem with cases of abuse – it’s largely he said / she said. It’s a lot of conjecture. It’s a lot of no hard evidence. Which means there’s a lot of cases of our legal system being, sadly, useless ***
In case you missed it, Kesha is claiming that her producer has been emotionally and psychologically abusing her for the past decade. She’s claimed instances of being drugged and raped, instances of her career, family, and self being verbally and physically threatened. She’s suing to be let out of a contract that requires her to make 6 more records with her alleged attacker – a contract that makes it impossible for her to make any music (her livelihood) with anyone else. Sony offered her a switch to another producer, yet her lawyer argued that her music wouldn’t be promoted by the label as highly if it wasn’t produced by the famous Dr Luke.
She lost her case. There’s many reasons to claim: there wasn’t enough hard evidence, there was a legal contract in place, setting a legal precedent about nullifying contracts is a dangerous step to take. There’s also a lot of conjectures that have been made: Dr Luke is more valuable to Sony than Kesha is, they don’t want to offer female artists a legal trump card, victims are never taken seriously in the legal system. There’s quite a few snide remarks going around: Chris Brown still has a music career yet Kesha’s has come to a halt; contracts get legally nullified daily, hence our divorce rate being so high. There’s a lot going on. And it’s heartbreaking – because it’s normal.
If we don’t have evidence of something, we don’t believe it. Innocent until proven guilty, right? Yet how do you prove emotional abuse, in a court room? How do you explain on a police report the demeaning words that have been spoken, day after day, even without any physical threat? How do you prove rape, when the event happened 5 years ago, when the victim was too traumatized, fearful, and confused to even think about getting a medical examination done or filling out a report? Abuse is hard to prove, and therefore hard to punish, in our society. And abusers know that; they thrive on that.
It’s been reported that only 3% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail – too few get reported, too few of those cases get prosecuted, and even fewer get convictions that end up with a prison sentence. That’s just actual, physical rape – not attempted rape, not verbal abuse, not emotional threats. We have a war on drugs and a war on guns, but for some reason we have yet to claim a fight against this monster.
Instead, we default to victim blaming. We ask where they were, what they were wearing, how much they had to drink, who they were talking to. We judge who they decided to marry, where they live, the clothes they buy, and their make up. We sit back and distance ourselves as far as possible from them – because that feels safer, that feels easier. If we can explain away your rape, it makes us feel less uneasy. Never mind that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. It’s nicer to think this person is lying – this person made the whole thing up – than to think we live in a society where people are doing that to each other. It’s nicer to brush off other’s claims as falsehoods, instead of hearing them, taking them in, realizing this happens far more often than we would like to think. Innocent until proven guilty, for the attackers. But for the victims? Liars until proven otherwise.
Countless victims have spoken up about the desire to not tell anyone about their attacks. When you’ve already gone through something so traumatizing, revisiting it to pursue justice seems incomprehensible. Many want to forget it ever happened, to simply move on with their lives. Many know the shame and guilt that will be placed on them – they fear stepping forward in a society that blames victims first and foremost, that shakes their head at the woman who walked home alone instead of at the man who raped her*. And we finally had a rich, powerful, white celebrity do what so many victims are too afraid to do – stand up, say something, fight. Someone who will make society actually listen. And look at the response she gets: “Sorry, claims not valid”. Is there any hope for anyone with less stature?
I don’t have the answers here. I don’t have the legal expertise, the needed inside details, or the golden ticket to the right way forward. I just have a hurting heart, an outrage at injustice, a soul-cry for every victim who has been treated the same way – every victim who has been forced to continue to interact with, work alongside, or even live with their attacker. I, personally, want to believe that Kesha is telling the truth, but I don’t know. And you don’t know. And we might never know. But what I know is this: we need to start asking the hard questions, we need to start re-looking at our black-and-white systems. We need to re-evaluate situations, and see if we are – without meaning to – valuing the male voice over the female voice. We need to look at the questions we ask of victims, and of the subconscious blame that goes along with them. We need to wonder if our justice system is set up to care for victims of abuse – and if it isn’t, wonder why we’re allowing it to still be called the justice system. We need to look at our world, and see what we’re not okay with. And then we need to work on fixing it.
I stand with Kesha. I support Kesha. (and I’ll probably continue dressing up like Kesha…) #FREEKESHA
*I realize men are victims of rape, too, as women can be perpetrators.