I'm a Rape Survivor, and I Stand With Kesha

As a feminist, there are many times when I publicly voice my opinion on issues, as political and risky as that may sometimes be. But not many feel as personal and intimate as what has recently happened to Kesha.

I've been following Kesha's case since she came out and told the world her story, because this—supporting rape and sexual assault victims—is something I care about. Whenever anyone steps out into this harsh world to tell their story, I listen, whether that survivor is a celebrity or a college student. Because in this world of rape culture and victim blaming, I feel it's important to stand on the side of the survivor.

Yes, people do stretch the truth about being raped and sexually assaulted. Like any other crime, there are falsified accounts. And when Rolling Stone came under fire for their story "A Rape on Campus," my heart sank. It felt like something that was happening to me. Because people are already so quick to dismiss survivors when they come forward. Because people are already so quick to point fingers at the very few falsified accounts and say, "But couldn't this victim be lying for their own benefit?" 

These things do affect me, although I'm not Kesha. I'm a rape survivor. And what's happening to her feels sadly very familiar.

After I was raped on a college campus, I was very unsure about whether or not to seek legal action in my case. The fact that I was even uncertain shows just deeply strong rape culture is rooted in our society. If I were the victim of any other crime on campus, such as a robbery or a hate crime, I doubt I would have hesitated for very long before contacting authorities. But I knew that my case was likely to be treated with hefty skepticism, and I was right.

When I did gather up the courage to contact authorities, I was asked all the questions that rape survivors hate to hear: "What were you wearing?" "Were you drinking?" "Did you initiate any sexual advances or consent to any before the rape occurred?" "Have you ever been in a relationship, sexual or otherwise, with your assailant?" "What is your sexual orientation?"

Ultimately, I was told that I could take the case to trial, but it would be the word of my assailant versus my word, and I was unable to get any of my assailant's friends (who were present before and after the rape) to testify as witnesses on my behalf. 

Cases like Kesha's are heartbreaking for me, because even though our situations are not identical, when I'm listening to the media coverage of her case, I don't just stand with Kesha. I become Kesha. I've been in Kesha's shoes, just wanting to make sure that I was able to keep myself safe from my assailant, and it breaks my heart that justice was not on Kesha's side this time.

Many others have stepped up to voice their support of Kesha, because this is what we need to do with the justice system does not work correctly. Jack Antonoff, who worked on multiple songs on Taylor Swift's 1989offered to produce Kesha's music. Zedd also made a public announcement offering to produce Kesha's music. Lena Dunham featured the topic in her newsletter, Lenny. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to help pay Kesha's legal fees, and then Demi Lovato attacked Swift on social media

I don't want to make this into an issue of woman-attacking-woman, so I definitely agree that rather than take the time to debate about Lovato's comments toward Swift, we should all shift the conversation back toward our support of Kesha. The right discussion to have isn't whether or not Swift's generous donation was helpful. The discussion we need to be having, instead, is how we can all support Kesha, and how we can shift our societal mindset and legal processes in favor of victims. 

I completely agree with the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty in our legal justice system. That isn't the issue here. Some industry professionals have argued that Kesha, like many other young artists, just signed a bad contract, but that a contract is a contract and it is still a legally binding document. But Kesha was not trying to punish Dr. Luke with jail time or any other kind of sentence; she simply wanted to break a contract.

While I agree that there are situations where people regret signing contracts, I also think is one of those situations where the justice system has the option to side with the victim, or at least meet in the middle. If a regular working professional woman signed a employment contract at a company for two years, but then was raped or sexually harassed on the job and wanted to legally break that contract because she wasn't comfortable, I believe she should be able to. It's a complicated issue. But all Kesha wants is to get away from her abuser. We may not know exactly what happened between the two, but we do know one thing: Kesha is afraid to work with him. And she shouldn't have to any longer, just like a professional woman should be allowed to quite her job if she suffers from sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Others have also argued that, in the courtroom, it was stated that Kesha won't have to produce with Dr. Luke or be in any contact with him. Some people see that as a solution. But imagine this: You were sexually assaulted by your supervisor at work, and you work for a large company. You were under a contract to continue working there for at least another year or more, and you asked to break that contract prematurely. Instead, you were told that you'd have to stay, but you would no longer have to see your old supervisor; instead, you could work under another supervisor. Your supervisor still works there, though, and maybe he even partially owns the company. There's no guarantee you won't run into him, or be reminded of him, or triggerred by his existence at the company. The bottom line is that you don't trust that you're protected. That's why this isn't a valid solution to Kesha's problem.  

It all comes down to this: There are millions of survivors out there who are watching coverage of Kesha's case, terrified about the outcome. Rape culture traps us all. It traps survivors into feeling like they can't come forward about what happened to them, because even if they do—even if they endure all the prodding questions, all the negative media coverage, all the hundreds of comments on articles calling them liars and saying they wanted it—there is still little guarantee that any justice will be served. It traps supporters of survivors into asking those questions, and wondering if the assault actually occured. It traps us into an endless cycle of victim blaming, both internalized within survivors and external in every fiber of our culture.

Since I've started following Kesha's case, I've been holding my breath. Hoping that, unlike for me, Kesha was able to get some justice. She didn't even want to punish her rapist using the legal justice system. All she wanted, simply, was to be free of her contract so that she could feel physically, emotionally and psychologically safe.

She didn't even get that, and I'm furious. I'm not going to stop being furious until rape culture, victim blaming and this endless cycle are put to an end. I stand with Kesha because I am Kesha. We all are, every survivor out there. When you post comments doubting Kesha, when you derail the conversation by talking about her looks, when you say that she's a whore and she was "asking for it," you're talking about us. You're talking about every survivor you have in your life, and guarantee that you do have survivors in your life, even if you don't know it.

I hope to someday live in a world where consent is a part of public education. I hope to live in a world where Project Unbreakable doesn't need to exist. I hope to live in a world where survivors are supported, both by the justice and law enforcement systems and by society at large, by the media, by their friends and family. I hope to live a world where, when a survivor comes forward, the first question that's asked isn't, "What were you wearing?" I hope to live in a world where male-identified, transgender and other LGBTQ+ survivors feel safe coming forward because they aren't shamed into believing they don't fit the mold of a typical survivor. I hope to live in a world where stories like Kesha's don't happen, and all of this can only happen if we really take a stance. We need to stand with Kesha, because standing with her means standing against rape culture. 

Let's show Kesha our support. Let's show her that she's not alone in this battle, and that even though the legal system didn't support her this time, there are so many of us who do.