Content warning: Rape, Abuse, Sexual Violence, Eating Disorders.
On Friday 19th February it was ruled in court what singer Kesha would not be able to leave her Sony contract with record producer Dr Luke. The image of the 28 year old singer weeping in court went viral and many have publicly come out in support of the young star- Taylor Swift, Lorde and Adele to name a few.
For Kesha, the repercussions for her career are huge- being forced to continue working with a man she claims to of allegedly emotionally, mentally and sexually abused means that she is essentially gagged, prevented form working freely without her alleged abuser. However, the repercussions of this lost legal battle are huger still.
What does this tell future women about how abuse in the workplace is dealt with? And how will this then impact on women venturing and succeeding within this workplace?
The lawsuit claims that Kesha was allegedly drugged, raped, and pressured into losing weight, all of which led her to be admitted to rehab for an eating disorder in 2014, with her explaining that Dr Luke – Lukasz Gottwald – had likened her appearance to a fridge. She explained also how he impacted and pressured her musically, with him being insistent on the lyric of ‘die young’, which Kesha was uncomfortable with due to the young age of her fanbase.
However, the decision by the court to side with Sony comes from the claim that there has ‘been no showing of irreparable harm’, as reported by Buzzfeed.
The implications of this reasoning are troubling. Having concrete and tangible proof for mental, emotional and sexual abuse is often incredibly hard to recover, with many survivors feeling uncomfortable going to the police directly after the abuse has occurred. However, this leads to a lack of ‘showing of irreparable harm’, and leads to situations such as Kesha’s.
The result of the treatment of these crimes mean that many survivors are discouraged from coming forward. Survivors branded often as liars, and a culture of victim-blaming becomes prevalent.
Writer Laura Bates explains how in light of the story regarding the singer, many took to Twitter calling her a slut, whore and a liar. However, with 68% of rapes being unreported and 98% of rapists never reaching prison (https://rainn.org/statistics), the culture of sexual abuse in the workplace is an issue that a shocking amount of women will experience.
Yet, with court cases regarding these issues being treated in such a manner by both the court, and much of the general public, survivors are becoming increasing silenced, and encouraged to accept these as norm. The thought that perhaps the victim is lying is often one of the first thoughts when stories such as these are uncovered, because the extent to these happenings are so hushed out of convenience.
This legal case is not just Kesha’s, but everyone’s. It is an expose of victim-blaming that is so present in a society that claims to be equal, it is shows how mental and sexual abuse is treated as something that does not have the legal standing or the respect to be deemed worthy to break a music contract, and it is a statement that condones loudly to the public that this type of abuse is acceptable.
The message this will send to women in the workplace is clear, however the message is also clear to people of all genders. The message is that people can be gagged and silenced by the law, despite illegal actions such as this abuse taking place.
It says this type of alleged abuse is above the law. The large response the story has generated shows an encouraging level of backlash, while also demonstrating how far society still has to go.