Prove your humanity

By Rachelle Erzay


Since February 19th, her case has been blasted all over the news and social media, but it was the truly awful image captured of Kesha, agonised and broken in court, which really hit home.

In Forbes magazine, it was detailed Kesha Serbert filed a lawsuit against her producer Dr Luke, aka Lukasz Gottwald, and Sony in 2014, claiming “sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, civil harassment, unfair business, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.” She says she was only 18 years old when Gottwald first sexually assaulted her, and from there, she paints a tormented decade long picture of a series of emotional abuses that inflicted irreparable harm on her mental and physical state. Since filing the case, she has been unable to record or distribute her music outside of the contract, which binds her to her alleged abuser for six more albums, leaving her in a harrowing state of career limbo.

In response, Gottwald and Sony filed their own suit against Kesha, her mother Pebe, and her manager Jack Rovner, for extortion and defamation, and since the case began, he has maintained his innocence. Through a series of recent tweets he defended himself to the public by releasing images of past legal documents detailing a personal account spoken under oath by Kesha in 2011, which denies all questions regarding whether Gottwald sexually assaulted her. He wrote; “It’s sad that she would

turn a contract negotiation into something so horrendous and untrue… But I feel confident when this is over the lies will be exposed and the truth will prevail.”

The part of the story that we have been hearing about is only one small piece in the ongoing case. On 19th February, Supreme Court Judge Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would have allowed her to immediately end her contract with Gottwald and Sony. It was denied due to fact the multi-million dollar contract is considered ‘typical’ for the industry, and because Sony has allowed Kesha to work with another producer until her contract is up.

In the eyes of the law, the verdict to reject Kesha’s injunction from Kemosabe stands strong; since at this point contract trumps claims. However, over the past few weeks, many have aired their frustration at the unfairness of her situation. In a powerful post on Facebook, Rory Banwell articulated a point about our society that fails to recognise and change the treatment of rape victims; “women who claim that wealthy men, or men in positions of power, have abused them are often labelled as gold diggers or it is insinuated that there is some kind of ulterior motive, other than justice, for speaking out… the character of the victim is often what is being disputed, rather than discussion around the actual allegations.”

Kesha’s case is a prime example of our societies inherent flaws when it comes to women speaking out about their abuse. Lawyer and Fox News commentator Susan Estrich told the ABC “the myth of the lying women is the most powerful myth in the tradition of rape law.” But despite the constant victim blaming that seems to colour these cases, it is only between 2 and 3 percent of sexual assault accusations that turn out to be false. What is even more alarming is the fact it was found by Kathy Mack that “in the select cases that make it to trial, conviction is rare, particularly where the victim and perpetrator know each other and there is no injury beyond the rape.” So, it’s just by reviewing Kesha’s case, you can begin to understand why women are afraid to voice their experiences.

But while the outpouring of support has been outstanding, it may be possible the tidal wave of the twittersphere outcry may do more harm than good. While the case is unique, it is not rare, and the outrage expressed from the public should be focused on a whole range of cases and women rather than just one public profile.

Chris Selley makes an interesting point in his article discussing ‘twitter justice’ in sexual assault cases. He says that “the well-meaning progressive mantra today is to “believe the victims” of sexual assault, in hopes more of them will draw the considerable courage necessary to come forward…[and] it invites us to broadcast that belief.” However, broadcasting that belief through an army of twittersphere soldiers, may do more harm than good. “If we all started doing that for every trial that made the news, declining to do it for one trial or another might, in fact, become an insult to the accuser and a disincentive to other victims coming forward.” The twittersphere, although meaning well, has seemingly singled out Kesha’s case, instead of rallying for support in ALL rape cases. We need to be critical of the fact that Taylor Swift isn’t going to hand out $250k to all the other victims of abusive crimes, and we must ask ourselves how this might effect other women who are struggling to speak out about their own experiences.

Kesha’s case is only one of many that has reinforced the notion that our culture is built on a mindset that is harmful to rape victims. But despite the possible negative effects of such a loud response from the public, the outpouring of support and outrage against our current way of thinking is a small step towards taking down the negative processes that dictate our society.