How we failed to protect Kesha
Why is it still not safe for people to come forward about being abused?
On 21 Feb, 2016, ‘Tik Tok’ singer Kesha lost the lawsuit that could release her from a six-album record label contract.
She was photographed in tears when the court ruled that she would not be freed from her contract and her producer Dr. Luke, who she claims emotionally and sexually abused her throughout her career.
This means that she has to record, promote, and perform six more albums for Sony Records, alongside Dr. Luke, for 10 or more so years. In her affidavit, the American singer confessed: “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.”
When it comes to cases of abuse and rape, the problem arises from the difficulty of proving these allegations.
Rape kits, which test the perpetrator’s DNA, only work within 72 hours of the assault. By the time victims decide to report the assault, it may be too late. Kesha only reported the alleged rape last year, and claims it happened 11 years ago, when she was 18.
When it comes to abusive relationships, the victim must provide evidence to show that he or she has good reason to feel unsafe for the court to take them seriously.
Without any empirical evidence, the case ends up becoming the victim’s word against their perpetrator’s. Who will the court believe?
This is where rape culture comes in, and this is how it normalises sexual harassment in our society, as well as our legal system. Rape culture causes us to evaluate abuse victims based on a spectrum between ‘bad victim’ and ‘good victim’.
The ‘good victim’ is modest, sober and respectable. She reports the details of her assault in lucid detail almost immediately after it happens, as if there were no trauma attached to the event. She undergoes a rape exam willingly hours after the assault, as if anything foreign touching her skin won’t make her nauseous or give her a panic attack.
This person is believable. But of course, she rarely exists.
The ‘bad victim’, on the other hand, partakes in ‘high risk’ activities such as drinking, wears provocative clothing, and is always accused of looking for attention when showing visible symptoms of trauma.
Victim-blaming becomes dangerous when it has an influence in court proceedings, as it holds victims responsible for their own abuse, putting less responsibility on the perpetrator. The more we choose to mistrust the victim based on the ‘bad victim’ vs ‘good victim’ dichotomy, the less severity we place on the abuser’s actions.
Personally, I think Kesha was just looking for a safe space, and she needed her voice to be heard after years of silence. Perhaps, this incident is a telling reflection of mainstream society’s attitude towards abuse, and it has to be changed.
Before you accuse someone of reporting abuse “for attention” or for other ulterior motives, ask yourself, why would anyone want to come out and put themselves through this?