My heart is broken for Kesha. My heart has been broken for Kesha since last year when I heard about her pending court cases against her producer, Dr. Luke. I have been following the cases intently, especially since the February ruling against her where the court sided with Sony Records and her rapist, Dr. Luke. The case is long running and complicated, so I won’t explain it all here. If you search “Kesha” on Buzzfeed you’ll find very adept summaries of all the issues at hand.
To summarize for the purposes of this post: Kesha is trying to get out of her record contract with Dr. Luke because he allegedly sexually abused her for many years. I used the word allegedly only because it’s the word the media is hanging on. Every time the court case comes up the mainstream media makes sure to stress that Dr. Luke allegedly raped Kesha, as if the crime didn’t happen. Essentially, the media has sided with Dr. Luke, who claims that Kesha is fabricating the entire thing in order to get out of her contract. Unfortunately, the courts have also sided with him, ruling against Kesha two times in rapid succession.
I haven’t said much about the case publicly, but it’s time to stand up and say this is a fucking travesty. The way this high profile rape case has been handled is heartbreaking proof that women’s careers and lives are not as highly valued as the lives and careers men who abuse them. The courts have made it clear that Sony and Dr. Luke’s financial holds on Kesha are more important than her emotional well being or safety. Broken down to the bluntest terms, the contract is more important than the woman. In my ears this sounds frightening like ownership. Kesha belongs to Dr. Luke. Even more appalling, it has also been suggested that she owes Dr. Luke her financial future because he made her a star. There is very little discussion of her musical talent or her ability to decide what to do with that talent. Her future belongs to Dr. Luke and she has no say in that decision. The court has stolen her agency.
The decisions against Kesha also tell the world what our justice system thinks about rape as a crime. Just yesterday a judge ruled against Kesha’s claim that Dr. Luke’s abuse qualified as a hate crime saying that “rape is not a gender motivated hate crime”. Rage coursed through me when I read this line. I know that rape does not always happen to women. I know men rape men. I know women rape men. I know that rape is not limited to gender, sex, or sexuality. But to say that rape is not a gender motivated crime is ludacris. When a man hates women enough to rape them, that is a gender motivated hate crime. When a man hates other men enough to rape them that is also a gender motivated hate crime. And please don’t tell me that rape is a crime of power, not hate. I know rape is a crime of power, but how can someone be driven to such demoralizing violence without hatred? Rape is a crime of many facets, and hate is always one of them.
The entire saga of this crime also tells the world what our court system thinks about women who speak out against men. The media focuses on the word alleged so much in this case because they are trying to communicate that Kesha is lying. That she is a manipulative harpy who is maliciously trying to ruin a man’s life by accusing him of rape. Too often this is the treatment women are given when they accuse a man of rape. They are asked if they were drinking. They are asked what they were wearing. They are asked if they were a “cocktease”. They are asked if they had begun to engage in sexual activity and then changed their minds. They are asked if they misunderstood the situation. The default in our criminal justice system is to assume that women fabricated a rape to carry out an ulterior motive. The assumption is never that a woman can be taken at her word. This is the result of centuries of societal programming that paint women as lying schemers out to ruin the lives of men.
Rape is a horrendous crime. It ruins and takes lives on a daily basis. Women live in fear that they will be raped in their lifetime. For too many women this will be a fact, not just a fear, and when it does happen to them they will endure endless torture by the justice system if they choose to come forward. It has to stop. The system has to change. These women, Kesha included, deserve justice.