On February 19, a judge ruled that pop star Kesha must record six more albums with Sony Records, a company that has consistently defended her alleged abuser. Unless she is able to successfully appeal the ruling, it ties her to producer Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald), who she says drugged and raped her, and abused throughout her career. It also keeps her linked to a recording company that essentially "turned a blind eye" to the physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse through which Gottwald put Kesha. PopWrapped wrote about the ruling as it happened, and you can read more details here.
The ruling is a frightening one, not only because it holds that the profit of a corporation trumps the right of an individual to work free from abuse, but because it speaks volumes about how victims are treated. RAINN estimates that 68% of sexual assaults are never reported, and in the wake of recent events, it's easy to see why.
Society demands victims come forward, and then punishes them for doing so. It's not enough to speak out once, victims must tell their stories again and again, often to people waiting to pick them apart for not behaving perfectly before or after the assault. No one is a perfect victim; that's a myth. Rape, assault, and abuse aren't always crimes committed by strangers in dark alleys. Victims can be people who stay, who drink, who enjoy consensual sex. In many cases, the only evidence is your word against theirs. To be challenged each time you are brave enough to speak out is putting yourself through additional trauma. Not all victims are capable, or willing, to do so. Madonna once said that reporting an assault just isn't worth it; "it's too much humiliation".
Kesha's lawyer, Mark Geragos, spoke of the ruling, saying that "she doesn't have to be victimized repeatedly by this guy." While the recording company has offered to allow Kesha to record with another producer, this is merely a "small step." He said Sony is "setting her up to fail." Even if Kesha were to record with another producer, she is still stuck with a company that not only condones such an environment, but denies that there was ever anything wrong in the first place. Kesha's injunction very clearly stated that she doesn't "feel safe in any way." And how could she? It would be impossible to feel safe and comfortable recording in that type of environment. How could Kesha put out her best work knowing what she's walking into?
As someone who has experienced workplace harassment, I can say with absolute certainty that it doesn't matter who she is recording with, the company failed her and to go back would be re-traumatizing. In my case, my harasser was not my direct boss, but was in upper management and worked in close proximity to my desk. My direct boss defended the harasser, blaming his age and an "old-fashioned attitude." I wound up leaving the company, opting for a massive pay cut in order to avoid continued harassment. I couldn't remain comfortable at a company that encouraged such an environment.
Reading about Kesha's case has made me unbelievably grateful for the fact that I could freely leave my harasser, who had already proceeded to uninvited touching, even after I said "no." While the pay cut was huge, I was still able to find another job in a similar field. The fact that her career and livelihood are tied to a person she fears is unimaginable.
My reduction in salary did wind up affecting me significantly at home. Financial instability forced me to live with an abuser for far too long, and affected every other area of my life. I tried to leave a few times before I successfully did - each time I went back after being met with disbelief, or encouragement to stay. After all, they'd say, I had entered into a contract with this person to try and work things out. Hearing that same logic to force a woman to work with someone she says drugged and raped her, among other horrific acts, is deeply upsetting and terrifying. The ruling tells Kesha, and victims of abuse everywhere, that it's better to continue being abused than to try and speak out, or remove yourself from the situation.
Kesha does have the support of her fans across the world, and many celebs have gone to social media to voice their support, using the #FreeKesha hashtag.https://twitter.com/iamjojo/status/700912081806221314 https://twitter.com/ladygaga/status/700813758067830786 https://twitter.com/BestCoast/status/700751204985352192?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw https://twitter.com/kelly_clarkson/status/700804809499271168 https://twitter.com/lorde/status/700792372385308672 https://twitter.com/rowblanchard/status/700761397148434432 https://twitter.com/tyleroakley/status/700823710035550208 https://twitter.com/jackantonoff/status/700808778615169025 https://twitter.com/darrenhayes/status/700841681042558977
Prior to the verdict, Kesha posted a peaceful picture of the sun, saying:
I have nothing left to hide. I did this because the truth was eating away my soul and killing me from the inside. this is not just for me. this is for every woman, every human who has ever been abused. sexually. emotionally. mentally. I had to tell the truth. so the outcome will be what it will be. there's nothing left I can do. it's just so cary to have zero control in your fate. but this is my path this life for whatever reason...
Her strength and bravery in speaking out, and taking these hits time and time again, is remarkable and acts as an inspiration to us all.