Friday, April 8, 2016

Because reporting abuse is easier

"Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime."

These are the words of New York State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich from her ruling in the Ke$ha case. Additionally, she found that the claims could not go forward because the abuse happened outside of New York. Ke$ha had filed a similar lawsuit in California court, but it had been stayed in favor of the New York action.

Ke$ha, described as a "brash and driven" singer, is a twenty-nine year old pop sensation. Originally from Nashville, she moved to LA at a young age to pursue pop music and catapulted to stardom in 2010 when her single "Tik Tok" reached number 1 on the Billboard Top 100.

The New York opinion offers the following reasoning:
Although Gottwald's alleged actions were directed to Kesha, who is female, the CCs do not allege that Gottwald harbored animus toward women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha.
In 2014, Ke$ha filed a civil complaint against Dr Luke, claiming that he had sexually, physically, and verbally abused her. She asserted that the abuse went on for ten years, beginning when he signed her as an 18-year-old artist. Ke$ha also argued that the abuse contributed to her developing an eating disorder and later to a full mental breakdown. Dr. Luke subsequently filed a lawsuit in New York, saying that she made it all up, was crazy, and just wanted a quick way to be released from her recording contract.

Over the past two years, the #FreeKe$ha movement has brought international attention to gender-based violence and sexual harassment. In addition to trending on social media, the story has garnered support from countless celebrities, including public statements from Lady Gaga, a $250,000 check of solidarity from Taylor Swift, and an opinion piece by Lena Dunham.

Dunham touches on what I've come to see as a huge problem in the court systems for survivors of domestic violence. As a part of the Family Protection Clinic, I've seen the court dismiss numerous cases of domestic violence because they appear to be a custody grab. In California, it is true that custody issues are dealt with much quicker when domestic violence is involved. In a way, you get to "skip the line" and get into court and mediation much quicker. Additionally, a finding of domestic violence creates a presumption that the petitioner should be favored in a custody agreement.

However, it seems that courts may instead assume if a domestic violence case involves children, that it is solely about the children and the petitioner must rebut this second, fallacious presumption before their case regarding abuse can be considered (if they are even able to get that far). I'm not sure how, in 2016, this is the default approach to addressing the needs of victims in court, yet I see this sentiment replicated again and again both in local family courts and in high-profile cases like Ke$ha's. Not only do courts perpetuate these fallacies, but then these misconceptions are reiterated and rationalized through mainstream media

Dunham's piece articulated these sentiments more eloquently:
These women deserve better. They do not choose to have their reputations pilloried and their characters questioned as a tactic for getting what they want. What if we realize that the women who come forward have everything to lose, whether they're pop stars or single mothers?


Jenna said...

Lena Dunham's comment that the "women who come forward have everything to lose" is sadly too accurate. Especially in the media, you never seem to hear a reporting of alleged physical or sexual abuse without hearing: (1) about the moral character of the victim; (2) the reasons the victim may be lying; and (3) how these accusations will hurt the future of the accused. This potential future is almost always described as "bright" or "promising," which provides either the implicit (or sometimes explicit) idea that it is the victim who is stealing this beautiful and perfect life from the accused. However, you never (or at least I cannot recall an instance) hear about the "bright" or "promising" future of the accused who now may have a harder time achieving their goals and dreams because of the abuse and/or trauma they have suffered. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we were concerned more about the future of the victim instead of their past?

Sonja said...

This whole Kesha incident highlights the sorrowful fact that our culture and our courts seem to value capitalism over women's health and wellbeing. Justice Kornreich, also reasoned that Kesha's attorney was “asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry.” As if the fact that a contract was negotiated, negates the fact that Kesha was sexually assaulted. The justice's instinct "to do the commercially reasonable thing," tipped the scales of justice in favor of commercialism and reinforced the silencing of women who speak out against their abusers.

India Powell said...

So much of the discussion surround Kesha's case is truly infuriating. It brings to mind a lot of the conversations that I had while taking the Sexual Assault seminar last semester. People love to raise the argument that "Well, people lie!" I hear this a lot from public defender friends. But the actual data on false reporting really proves that its an anomaly, not the norm. Dunham is right: maybe these victims really do have everything to lose. And if that's the case, why in the world would they make it up?