What Kesha’s case means for sexual assault survivors

Singer Kesha at the premiere of Planes: Fire & Rescue in 2014.
Supplied by Mingle Media TV

Last week, in the midst of a lengthy legal battle, singer Kesha was denied a court injunction that would release her from working with the man she says “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally” abused her.

For those who haven’t been following the case, Kesha has been fighting to get out of a contract that forces her to work with producer Lukasz Gottwald, better known as Dr. Luke, who she has accused of abuse.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich defended her decision to honour the contract by explaining that Sony Music would suffer “irreparable harm” were they to release Kesha from her contract — considering the money they’d invested in her thus far. Kornreich makes no mention, however, of the pain that would surely be inflicted upon Kesha were she forced to continue working under her alleged abuser.  

Though Sony has stated that Kesha wouldn’t have to deal directly with Dr. Luke, she’d still be an artist under his Sony-subsidiary label Kemosabe Records, where he’d maintain ultimate control over her work. 

Kesha is effectively being held hostage. Her only option for producing music is to work under Dr. Luke’s label, which she’s refused to do because she does not “feel safe in any way.” It’s in this limbo that Kesha has been left for the past three years and, based on this ruling, where she will remain, at least for the time being. 

In the wake of the Jian Ghomeshi trial, in which alleged survivors sexual abuse had their credibility viciously attacked, Kesha’s verdict is particularly upsetting. Both instances serve as very public warnings for future survivors of sexual assault that the legal system as it exists does not serve to protect them. 

If the courts can so hopelessly fail a successful pop star, what chance do even less powerful survivors have? In Kesha’s case, the warning is that the welfare of a corporation is of a greater value than that of a victim. 

If there’s a silver lining to Kesha’s ordeal, it’s the overwhelming amount of support offered to the singer by celebrities and fans alike. 

Influencers such as Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham have all spoken out in support of the singer. Taylor Swift has donated $250,000 to aid Kesha in her legal battles. Fans have even organized a boycott of all Sony products, which has almost 250,000 signatures. 

Yet, despite this outpour of support, Kesha is still a prisoner, who the legal system has forced to choose between working for her alleged abuser or never making music again. 

The implications of this case go far beyond Kesha. Future survivors of sexual assault will remember this case. They will remember how Kesha’s bravery will forever haunt her public image and career. Ultimately, they will be even less likely to come forward with their own cases. 

By publicly silencing Kesha, the music industry and the legal system have effectively silenced thousands of other survivors of sexual abuse.

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