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8th March 2016

Abuse: It’s time to re-evaluate

Following Kesha’s court battle with producer Dr Luke, Hannah McGrory calls for a re-evaluation on the attitudes towards abuse

As a generation, we like to believe that we are progressive. We look back to the bad things that happened historically with pursed lips and frowning foreheads, comfortable in the knowledge that nowadays, we are firm supporters of tolerance and humanity. But how can we justify that belief when human beings are still being subjected to abuse at the hands of other human beings, getting away with it, every single day? The media has been set alight this week with reports of the legal battle between Kesha and music producer Dr Luke, who is accused of sexual and physical assault against the 29-year-old ‘Tik Tok’ singer. On February 19th 2016, Judge Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha’s request for a preliminary injunction (which would have allowed a temporary break from her contract with the Sony label Kemosabe Records) prompting the young artist to break down into tears in the courtroom. Unsurprisingly, the reaction of the singer and the court’s decision have sparked mass debate amongst Kesha fans and critics alike.

Back in October of 2014, a lawsuit was filed against Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald (Dr Luke) claiming that he subjected Kesha to several instances of sexual, physical, emotional and substance abuse which began back in 2005, when the singer was just 18. Although the producer forcibly denied the accusations, claiming that they are part of a smear campaign to disrepute him, Kesha sought to legally break free of the contract that tethers her to his record label. However, in court Judge Kornreich reportedly stated that she saw no reason to “take the extraordinary measure of granting an injunction” and branded the contract as “typical for the industry”. It was also brought into question that music giant Sony had offered Kesha the opportunity to work with a different producer if she was unhappy, however her lawyers quickly voiced the singer’s concern that her music would not be promoted as heavily if she refused to work with Dr Luke, one of their biggest moneymakers.

Judge Kornreich justified her decision by asserting that “[her] instinct [was] to do the commercially reasonable thing”. But since when did being “commercially reasonable” gain the power to trump basic human rights? Yes, contract law is extremely binding and carries a lot of legal weight, but this obvious dismissal to a young woman’s claim of serious physical assault stands as a prime example of one of the major societal problems of today. We just don’t take abuse seriously. Why on earth are we living in a world where business contracts are given precedent over the right for people to feel safe in their own environment? Nobody deserves to be abused. Nobody has the right to be an abuser, no matter how high up the business ladder they are. What Kesha is going through is a very public example of why 75 per cent of people in the UK (and 68 per cent in the United States) choose to not inform the authorities following an experience of sexual assault. It’s heartbreaking to fully comprehend just how many women (and, of course, men) are out there struggling with the belief that nobody would take them seriously if they tried to report the crimes they had been subjected to. It took 50 separate accusations before Bill Cosby faced any criminal charges, so imagine how it feels to be just one person. In that position, why even consider opening up such emotional wounds when there’s little hope that you will get any justice?

In the days subsequent to the court case, it has become increasingly clear just how deeply these issues have resonated amongst the public, with thousands of people taking to Twitter to show their support for Kesha by retweeting the hashtag #FreeKesha. This included celebrities such as fellow musician Demi Lovato, who tweted that it was “frustrating to see women come forward with their past only to be shot down, not believed and disrespected for their bravery in taking action”. Kesha herself also chose to speak out, tweeting a picture, professing: “HOPE is the only thing stronger than FEAR”, along with a caption expressing a dignified thanks to all of those who had shown their support.

We as women are encouraged to stand up against abuse, but this is a clear illustration of what happens to so many of those who do. OK, so Kesha is a celebrity and chooses to live life in the public eye, and yes, she sometimes wears outlandish outfits and dances provocatively in her music videos. But does that make her any less of a woman? Of a human being? The answer is a definitive no. If one thing has become clear in the midst of this situation it’s that we as a people need to re-evaluate how we deal with cases of abuse, because the way things are at the moment is simply unacceptable. And in the ongoing case of Kesha and Dr Luke? Well, all we can hope for is that the humanity of America’s judicial system isn’t completely dead.

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