What Kesha’s Rape Verdict Means For Assault Victims

Nadine Dilong

“I don’t want any person to be afraid that they will be punished if they speak out.”

The legal battle between singer Kesha and her producer Lukasz ‘Dr Luke’ Gottwald has sparked global outrage, especially since the judge denied Kesha’s plea to break her contract with his record label Kemosabe Records.

The 28 year-old claims she has been emotionally and sexually abused by her producer during the 10 years since signing the record deal with the Sony subsidiary in 2005. Shortly after her 18th birthday, the singer was allegedly sedated and raped by Gottwald while unconscious.

Afraid to report the incident to police, Kesha endured years of mental and physical struggle, including breakdowns and eating disorders, following the alleged rape. Some of these claims were made by filmmaker Steven Greenstreet, who followed Kesha for two years making a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Kesha’s dream to “make music without being afraid, scared or abused” has now been shattered as a result of a court’s ruling, which prioritized a legal contract over an individual’s safety. More importantly, though, this decision doesn’t just affect Kesha, but every single victim of abuse who hasn’t had the courage to speak out about their assault.

“I think about young girls today – I don’t want my future daughter, or your daughter, or any person to be afraid that they will be punished if they speak out about being abused, especially if their abuser is in a position of power. Unfortunately I don’t think that my case is giving people who have been abused confidence that they can speak out, and that’s a problem,” the singer wrote on her Facebook page.

And she is absolutely right. The fact a famous celebrity failed to get the justice and – most of all – protection from her abuser is extremely discouraging for abuse victims, particularly those who don’t have the financial means and public support Kesha has.

According the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 68 per cent of sexual abuse is not reported, and a shocking 98 per cent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. This is extremely disturbing, and shows the importance of encouraging victims to speak up.

I know some people support the judge’s decision, given there is sparse evidence to support Kesha’s assault claims, which is unfortunately common in rape cases and something that prevents many victims from speaking up, but the legal system needs to make the protection of these women a priority, even before the assault is proven by law.

The principle ‘in dubio pro reo‘ (when in doubt, in favor of the accused), a legal right in many nations, should not be applied in cases involving abuse victims, as we need to give them the benefit of the doubt in order to guard them from more abuse.

#FreeKesha has become more than a hashtag. It represents every person who has been emotionally or physically abused and let down by the justice system.

If you are a victim of abuse, please speak up. Call RAINN on 1 800 656 4673 for confidential, judgment-free support.

Comment: Lady Gaga recently came out and said Sony should terminate their relationship with Lukasz Gottwald, in support of Kesha. Do you agree?