#FreeKesha: How The Odds Are Stacked Against Rape Survivors
On the 19th February, the hashtag #FreeKesha started trending on Twitter worldwide. A global response of anger and sadness came after it was ruled that Kesha, who has been locked in a legal battle with her abusive producer Dr Luke since 2014, must fulfil her contract with Sony by continuing to work with him on another six albums.
Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of Zayn Malik (of former One Direction fame) being able to terminate his contract with the very same label due to wanting to leave the band, whereas Kesha, who has faced massive amounts of trauma, is being faced to stay working alongside the person who has caused her so much pain. That’s right, she’s not even asking for the justice she deserves by having him sent to jail – she simply wants to live a life free of him. The question is, why are rape survivors treated like second-class citizens when they are the victims?
I’ve been following Kesha’s story since her case became public, and the upon hearing the judge’s ruling, my heart hurt for her in ways that words can’t properly convey.
I know all too well how the odds are stacked against rape survivors – as do millions of others. When the hashtag was trending on Twitter, the majority of people were rightfully showing support. But there were some people who accused Kesha of lying, despite her having everything to lose. There were also some who questioned why she didn’t press charges immediately after the abuse took place. Frankly, this is an idiotic, thoughtless thing to ask. There are multiple reasons why she may have not reported right away. The most obvious reason is that her abuser was (and still is) in control of her career – she knew that she could see everything that she had worked for fall down if she were to make an accusation. Furthermore, she may have been in shock, denial, or confused about what had happened – especially seeing as she was drugged.
Disturbingly, the law also takes this standpoint. Of course, I understand that evidence is crucial in all criminal cases. That said, when a person is showing obvious signs of trauma, isn’t it time to believe them?
When I first spoke out about being raped, over half a year had passed since it happened. It had taken that long for me to come to terms that it had even happened, and that I wasn’t okay. By that time, I was living with post-traumatic stress disorder that was corrupting my life and studies, but I had no DNA evidence to back me up. Some months after first speaking out, I had a meeting with an advisor from a charity that helps people who have experienced sexual abuse to discuss whether or not I wanted to officially make a report to the police. To be honest, the woman that I spoke with was shockingly insensitive (I have since filed a complaint), but the information that she gave me was what shocked me the most.
I knew that if I were going to go through with the reporting process, things were going to be tough. I knew that if the case even made it to court, my honesty would be questioned. Whilst I knew all this, I wasn’t aware of how intense the questioning could be, especially in the early stages of the process. The advisor told me that I would be questioned about my clothing, how many times I had been naked with my abuser (take note that I was raped by my boyfriend at the time), and all manner of other things. Essentially, if I went ahead with reporting, I was going to be interrogated as though I were the criminal. The presumption of his innocence meant that I was to be presumed guilty of being a liar.
It was a shock to my system. I was so determined to get justice – it was a fire burning within me. I had to accept that unless I was willing to put myself through a harrowing trial and likely not get anywhere anyway, I was never going to get that justice.
After specialist counselling with a wonderful counsellor (in contrast to the advisor I met with under the same charity), I started to feel like me again. I forgave myself. I realised that I had nothing to forgive myself for, despite what society had taught me. I had even had someone who called herself my best friend choose my rapist over me. I will always feel betrayed by the system, and I will always yearn after the justice I deserve, but I have myself back now. It’s those who will face the same battles in the future that my heart feels heavy for.