Last Friday, in a courtroom, a woman wept.
She wept because the court concluded there was not enough evidence that her alleged abuser (mentally, physically and sexually) was anything more than that, alleged.
The ruling also meant that if the petitioner wanted to continue to work, she would have to do so beside the individual she claimed to have mentally and physically hurt her for years.
By this point, I?m sure you may have a few questions. Whom am I referring to? Why doesn?t the petitioner just get a new job? And, why should I care?
This courtroom could have been anywhere in the United States; it just so happened to be in New York. And the petitioner is Kesha Rose Sebert, or more commonly known as the multi-platinum recording artist behind pop hits like ?Tik Tok? and ?My Love Is Your Drug?, Ke$ha.
In October 2014, Kesha filed a suit against Lukasz Gottwald, aka ?Dr. Luke?, her music producer who runs Kemosabe Records, a label owned by Sony Music, claiming he drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Contractually, Kesha still has six more records to create under Dr. Luke?s label.
On Friday, Feb. 19, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha?s request for a preliminary injunction in the case. The injunction would have allowed Kesha to record songs outside of her contract until the case is finalized.
Now, Sony has stated that Kesha can work with another producer, but her lawyers? say even if she accepted, Sony would not support or promote her new music.
But the thought I kept having while reading about the court case is why would you even want to work under the label of the man who supposedly raped you? I know I wouldn?t.
Since the verdict came out Friday afternoon, the internet has jumped into action supporting Kesha. Celebrities and fans alike have started using the Twitter hashtag #freekesha.
Now, I find the justice system very interesting. I like that we have a set of codes, written in black and white, and as much as this column may not seem like it, that we believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. It is up to the prosecution to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the defendant is guilty. And in last Friday?s hearing, Kesha?s lawyers did not provide enough evidence to grant the injunction.
I believe in that. What I hate about this whole thing is that rape is typically difficult to prove.
During a speaking engagement at the University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Va., Assistant Commonwealth?s Attorney Jon R. Zug said rape cases are notoriously hard to try because of the burden of proof. ?There are usually only two witnesses to the crime ? the victim and the defendant.? Zug went on to say defendants argue the rape never occurred, they were not the perpetrator, or that the sex was consensual.
I hate that throughout this column I?ve had to pepper in phrases like ?alleged,? ?claimed? and ?supposedly.? I have to do this because Dr. Luke has not been convicted of any crime. However, by slapping those words in front of ?abused,? ?raped,? ?threatened? and ?harmed?, we create a sense of doubt around the victim.
That sense of doubt led to these comments I saw all over the internet: ?Did it really happen?? ?Is she making it up to get out of her contract?? Why would she wait 10 years to speak up if it really happened??
This can quickly slide down the slippery slope to victim shaming. Her clothes were too tight/short/lowcut/provocative. She has a reputation. She shouldn?t have drunk so much or she shouldn?t have been walking down that dark alley by herself.
Note: I used the female pronoun, but rape can happen to men as well.
The bigger issue at play is 68 percent of all sexual assaults are not reported to police, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). That?s a huge number considering RAINN estimates there are about 293,000 victims of sexual assault a year in the U.S.
Why don?t victims come forward? Some victims are ashamed or embarrassed. They don?t want to go through the very public nature of court proceedings, or have their nature or character questioned.
Who knows, a victim of sexual assault could have heard about Kesha and found the courage to come forward. On the other hand, word of her court case failing could have just as quickly convinced someone that if a pop star can?t be believed, why would they be.
It?s sad. I have lain awake at night thinking about this case. Thinking about someone dear to me who went though a similar experience.
I hope despite this roadblock (Kesha?s initial lawsuit is still in play, this decision was regarding an injunction to allow her to continue to work) this will help other victims find their voice. Hopefully, this will start a conversation we, as a society, need to continue to have.
And in case there?s any doubt, I stand with Kesha. #freekesha