Kesha Update: The Conversation We Should Be Having
Earlier this month, the New York courts handed down the verdict in the case of Kesha Rose Sebert versus her producer at Sony, and alleged abuser, Lukasz Gottwald, more commonly known by his business handle Dr. Luke. In my previous article for the Bottom Line dealing with this subject (which you can find right here – http://bit.ly/1Q947Uf), I outlined important details about the case that we need to keep in mind when discussing the outcome, whatever it might have been. Now, the decision has finally been made – Kesha will not be released from her contract with Sony, who has made it clear that she will work with Dr. Luke in the production of her future albums, of which Kesha is contractually obligated to release a total of six with her current label. In the wake of such a controversial case, the public have ultimately come down on Kesha’s side, with other artists such as Lady Gaga, Adele, and Taylor Swift – who gave Kesha $250,000 to help with legal expenses – expressing their support.
Indeed, the public sentiment is undoubtedly behind Kesha, who sobbed in the Manhattan courtroom as the judge handed down the decision that she would be, for the time being, bound to her contract with Sony. The truly damning aspect of her case was the lack of evidence against Dr. Luke, who has denied all wrongdoing since the trial’s beginning (Kesha also denied any misconduct on Gottwald’s behalf during a previous case in 2011). This lack of hard physical evidence against the producer is what makes this case so infuriating for supporters of Kesha and victims of sexual assault in general – it comes down to the way our court system functions on a basic level. In order to get out of her contract, Kesha would have to provide evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Gottwald or Sony; as of yet, she has been unable to provide compelling evidence that objectively proves her allegations are true. Since she can’t provide evidence that incriminates either party, she will remain in her contract.
And that is exactly the way this trial should have ended.
Please, hear me out. I am absolutely not saying that Kesha is lying about what Dr. Luke did to her. In my last article I laid out exactly why I think Dr. Luke’s proclamation that Kesha is doing this for monetary gain is completely illogical; he’s out of his mind if he honestly thinks Kesha will in any way profit by leaving Sony and Kemosabe records, one of the undeniable titans in the recording industry of our time. I encourage you to read it and decide for yourself how you feel about her motivations in suing one of the most famous and powerful men in the music industry. What I mean by this case being settled the correct way is based on the fact that according to the theory we as Americans subscribe to in our justice system, a person should only be punished for a crime if there is physical evidence proving that a crime took place. It’s unfortunate, depressing, outrageous, and it makes me want to go back and add quotation marks around every instance of the word “justice” in this article, but barring any proof that Gottwald actually committed a crime, this is the way it has to be. Deciding in Kesha’s favor in this case, using our current framework that our courts operate in, would not be any better than deciding any other accused person is guilty without being shown sufficient evidence. Everyone deserves the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that includes millionaires accused of rape.
With that in mind, Gottwald is absolutely not doing himself any favors in the court of public opinion. While being adamant in his insistence that he has done nothing wrong, tweeting earlier this month that “Kesha and I were friends for many years and she was like my little sister.” If Dr. Luke likens his relationship with Kesha to that of a brother and sister, then he has some serious explaining to do in regards to a particular tweet from October of 2009 (two to three years after Dr. Luke began allegedly drugging and sexually abusing the singer). The contents of the tweet show a picture of Kesha sleeping, with a caption reading “Damn my artists work hard!!!!!!!” After Dr. Luke deleted the tweet from his timeline earlier this week when Kesha supporters made it viral on social media, he has been continuously under fire online as the public demands to know why he felt the need to delete the post if he truly has nothing to hide.
The fight between Kesha and Dr. Luke is not over, however; although she will not be released from her contract at present, she still has another court case coming up in which she will be pressing formal charges against the producer for the alleged abuse, including sexual battery, gender violence, and sexual harassment.
The ultimate goal of the discussion is not to release Kesha from the contract at this point – that issue has, regrettably, already been decided in court – but now we have an opportunity to address the core of this horrific case; we as a society have created a system in which women who are victimized by men are discouraged from coming out and accusing their abusers for fear of being shamed, persecuted, libelled, and professionally ruined. If Kesha had made these accusations back when the alleged abuse began, she might have had a fighting chance at gathering physical, compelling evidence backing up her case and would likely have been released from her contract… in theory. In reality, she was an eighteen-year-old up-and-comer in an industry notorious for seeing women as things to be sold and marketed to rather than people to be listened to and cared for. Rather than an outpouring of what we want to see, what we should see in these situations – “Are you okay?” “How can we help you feel safe?” “Tell us your story, I want to hear what happened.” – I feel like we would have gotten nothing but silence if Kesha had come forward eight years ago. In an industry that sees people like Kesha as assets, her case would have been handled as quietly as possible, with an out-of-court settlement being the likely outcome.
The potential for a guilty verdict in her upcoming case against Dr. Luke is unlikely to say the least; barring the inclusion of as-yet-unseen evidence during the jury trial, and based only on what we’ve seen so far, an acquittal is likely the only outcome we should be anticipating. Does this mean we shouldn’t get angry about this? No, absolutely not. This case should be in and of itself seen as a chilling indictment of the American attitude towards women making allegations against men in power; the most common sentiment expressed by men’s rights types (cue groans) on social media is overwhelmingly “well, if she really got raped why wouldn’t she say something earlier?” While we should fully support and encourage skepticism when dealing with cases that could potentially ruin lives and end careers, we should also be open to the fact that maybe the problem lies with our society, and by extension with us. Why is our culture so quick to shame a woman for having the courage to finally stand up against a system that has attempted to rob her of all self-esteem and keep her from from being heard, rather than being quick to comfort and support another human being during what is clearly the most difficult circumstance she has ever been subjected to? Let’s not use this as an opportunity to sensationalize, a la #SonySupportsRape, let’s have a conversation about how to make things better for the countless victims that have yet to be heard and fight to create an environment where someone saying they’ve been victimized is not a ploy for financial gain or a personal attack, but the cry for help that it really is.