By Rosie Alger
Elm Staff Writer

There is a lot that can be said about the Oscars this year, but one powerful moment was Lady Gaga’s performance of “Til it Happens to You,” her Academy-award nominated song about sexual assault. Not only was her song and her performance touching, heartfelt, and poignant, but she had a crowd of rape and sexual assault survivors join her on stage in a moment of solidarity. As a survivor herself, Gaga stood up for survivors everywhere and made it clear that their voices would not be silenced.
It is no coincidence that Gaga’s call for support of survivors and awareness around sexual assault came at a time when Kesha, with whom she has become friends, is going through enormous challenges in the courts in gaining freedom from her own rapist and history of sexual violence.
Kesha’s story may just be hitting the news, but it has been a long time coming. In 2013, Kesha started hinting in various interviews that she was suffering from some mental health issues and was unhappy in her situation with Sony, with whom she is signed. “In 2014, Kesha checked herself into rehab for an eating disorder, saying she wanted to ‘learn to love myself again exactly as I am.’ When she left two months later, she dropped the dollar sign in her name. Later that year, she sued Dr. Luke for assault and sexual battery. The struggle hinted at in her interviews and public statements was suddenly made very real,” wrote CNN. This launched the first wave of the “Free Kesha” movement, and the media started paying attention to Kesha and her fans’ outcries.
CNN talked about the how long this ongoing problem this has been, “The scathing lawsuit filed by Kesha and her lawyers in October 2014 alleged that, for the entirety of her professional career, she had been controlled and abused by Dr. Luke. The suit alleged that Dr. Luke persuaded her to sign with his label, ‘showered her with promises of fame and fortune,’ and has been pulling her strings ever since.”
It is now 2016, and so far the lawsuit process has not gone very successfully. Sony, Dr. Luke, and his lawyer seem to think Kesha’s claims are more driven by financial issues than anything else. “The lines were set: Kesha and her camp made it clear they saw Dr. Luke as an abuser who was a threat to Kesha’s career and life, and Dr. Luke’s camp believed her accusations to be an extreme form of contract negotiation,” wrote CNN. The fans, fellow survivors, and supporters will not be silenced, however, despite these setbacks. CNN concluded, “Last week’s court ruling was a harsh blow to Kesha’s cause. Though the original suit against Dr. Luke had included vivid and disturbing accounts of sexual and psychological abuse, a judge for the New York Supreme Court said her allegations were vague and there was no medical evidence provided to back up her claims of abuse. The injunction was denied, and her fans, outside the courthouse and around the world, reacted with anger.”
Many people, both ordinary fans and supporters as well as fellow celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Adele, have stood up to offer their voices for Kesha and survivors like her. The unfortunate reality is that Kesha’s case is not an unusual one. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, out of every 100 rapes, 32 will get reported to the police, only seven will lead to an arrest, and horrendously, only two out of every 100 rapists will spend a day in prison. RAINN also said that “Approximately [four out of five] of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim,” and “47 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.” With these kinds of numbers, it’s no wonder that every day survivors are forced to interact, work, or even live with their rapists and attackers. Cases like Kesha’s, while sad and not yet resolved, are important because they bring attention to this cultural epidemic in which sexual assault is rampant, and the legal system does not hold perpetrators accountable. Simple actions like Adele’s Grammy acceptance speech in which she showed support for Kesha and her cause are truly influential and bit by bit can affect the way our country accepts or refuses to accept rape culture.
In light of International Women’s Day and in discussion about gender issues in general, I would like to point out that despite the fact that we have a long way to go, there are a lot of really positive women’s voices across the globe that are fighting for an end to sexual assault and for liberation of women in general. Kesha’s case has been lifted up by several female celebrities in the United States, but there are also important groups that are speaking up globally. India is seeing a wave of women’s rights activism are fighting for gender equality, especially when it comes to anti-rape efforts. Some areas in India have started implementing gender classes in schools as part of this process. The use of YouTube and social media has been huge on this front, and two girls even made a “Rap against Rape” video that went viral and exposed India’s problems with rape culture. On an even bigger scale, Malala Yousafzai, an international advocate for education for women, created the Malala Foundation in an effort to see women and girls everywhere liberated through the power of education. Education and gender equality really do go hand in hand, and the more that we can give women the power to speak out, the more people will actively fight against injustices and violence like sexual assault.
The future of Kesha’s legal case may be uncertain, and who knows how long she will have to continue making music with her abuser, but one thing is sure. The publicity of her case has encouraged women and survivors all over the country  and world to speak up. In a world where equality may seem far away, it is crucial that minorities, victims, survivors, and supporters speak up, and that those of us in a position of privilege lift up the voices of the oppressed. Women all over the world are not going to stop talking about these injustices, and I for one am going to listen.

The Elm

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