UPDATE: Kesha released a longer statement on Facebook.
Pop star Kesha (the artist formerly known as Ke$ha) released her first public statement since a judge ruled that she would not be allowed out of her contract with Sony and her producer, Dr. Luke, a man she alleges drugged her, raped her, and verbally abused her to the point of developing an eating disorder and entering rehab.
If you’ve followed this story at all, you’ve likely seen one common thread, a phenomenon specific to cases similar to Kesha’s, or that of Zoe Quinn, Suey Park, and other women who’ve come forward with allegations of rape, harassment, doxxing and the like. And that is an overwhelming rush of either devil’s advocacy, questioning, or outright support in favor of the alleged attacker.
And it’s not just the public—the media has put forth, as evidence-without-commentary, the fact that Kesha swore under oath in 2011 that Dr. Luke neither drugged nor raped her.
People are very quick to assume victims are lying about being raped. And that someone would lie and say they were not abused, be it to protect themselves or their attacker, is thrust forth as evidence that the whole thing is made up.
For what it’s worth, Kesha’s lawyer says that testimony was given under duress after Dr. Luke told her he’d “ruin her career” if she didn’t deny the attacks. Though this information will hardly sway those already fiercely anti-Kesha.
Even when individuals come forward in support, that support is not the story. The victim is sidelined in favor of the sexier (and less litigious) pop star versus pop star social media speculation.
So, because this keeps happening time and time again, why do we constantly ignore, blame, or attack victims of sexual assault?
Recently, an old episode of Law and Order: SVU was playing on TV. I was only half-watching. I’d always watched the show and enjoyed it and only in the last couple years began noticing how problematic the show could be in victim portrayal. In this season one episode, Stabler actually said “the difference between burglary victims and rape victims is that burglary victims don’t lie.” Even a television show that is entirely about rape and sexual assault has immensely contributed to the culture we now exist within, the culture of “the lying victim” who either made up the whole thing or is hiding important information, smearing some innocent man.
This does happen. Let’s get that out of the way now, before you do in the comments. But it’s rare. It’s incredibly rare. In fact if as many women lied about their rapes as people believe, there wouldn’t even be rape—only lies. In actuality, only 2-8 percent of reported rapes are found to be false (and that’s just among the 5 percent of rapes that are reported in the first place). In fact, men are far more likely to be victims of rape than victims of a falsely reported rape. These are the facts.
So why are so many so quick to deny these facts and the experiences of the victims?
Here are the most commonly cited reasons seen in comment threads and social media alone (the below screenshotted directly from civilization’s greatest dumpster fire, Facebook Trending News):
- Lack of physical evidence that Kesha was raped
- Party girl image (the one created by Dr. Luke himself) renders her untrustworthy
- She’s just trying to get out of her contract
Is it that women are immediately determined as not trustworthy enough to believe one’s own experience? Is it that rape is so heinous the public would prefer a victim be lying than a perpetrator to have committed the act? Either way—victims lose. We as a society lose. Rape culture? That thing you hear about on Twitter and maybe aren’t certain what it means? It’s this—it’s the almost compulsive need to say “hey now, we don’t have all the facts” when a man is accused of rape. It’s the notion that a drunken party girl—real or imagined—was both asking for it and lying about it. It’s that so many women have followed along with this story this week and had to consider, even for a second, that if this happened to her, it wouldn’t even be worth telling anyone.
Kesha, whether you are a fan of her work or not (I had a sign at my wedding’s DJ booth that said “No Kesha allowed”), is a human, an artist (yes, she’s an artist—she’s a very talented songwriter and songs she’s written include this which is MY JAM) and she, by virtue of coming forward with her story, has faced an unimaginable volume of support and hatred alike. And whether you want it to be or not, hate can be so much louder. Because the hate speaks to the very wrongs of society, something so ingrained and terrible and we don’t know how to change it. This is a person forced, by contract, by the legal system, to continue to work with her abuser for years to come. And there are those who think, for whatever reason, it’s deserved. Acceptable.