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Why Is Kesha Being Punished?

02/24/2016 11:44 EST | Updated 02/24/2017 05:12 EST
New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images
(Pool photo by Jefferson Siegel) - Kesha (center in white) cries as she learns she will not be released from her record label contract in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday, February 19, 2016. A judge said she would not allow Kesha to leave her record label. (Pool Photo by Jefferson Siegel/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

The recording artist Kesha broke down in tears the other day. This came after a New York City judge ruled against her in her ongoing struggle to extricate herself from her contract with music producer Lukasz Gottwald, known in the industry as Dr. Luke.

Kesha alleges that early on in their acquaintance, the producer drugged and sexually assaulted her, and then proceeded to abuse her emotionally, physically and verbally over the years.

Since this unfortunate ruling, numerous recording artists have come out in support of Kesha, including Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Kelly Clarkson, Darren Hayes and Taylor Swift, who just donated $250,000 to help Kesha pay her mounting legal fees.

Although Dr. Luke must be considered innocent until proven guilty, his recent behaviour could be seen as questionable. For example, his insistence on maintaining the recording contract with Kesha is tantamount to holding her hostage.

While Dr. Luke has other artists to work with, Kesha's contract stipulates that she must complete three more records with him, and because she has stated that she fears for her safety around him, this has left her unable to record any music at all.

Apparently, SONY, the company Dr. Luke works for, has said that Kesha would be able to work with other producers under their label, but Kesha's lawyer, Mark Geragos, calls this an "illusory promise," saying that he doubts SONY would promote any work that Kesha did without this producer.

I question why Dr. Luke would insist on maintaining his contract with Kesha if she has made it absolutely clear that she'll never record with him again. He would not be able to benefit professionally from their association.

Dr. Luke can continue working with other artists, but if Kesha is held to this contract, her career will be over. One could see Dr. Luke's decision to reject Kesha's request to dissolve their contract as a way for him to benefit in another manner; it could be seen as an opportunity for him to punish Kesha for speaking out about the alleged abuse.

While I can't know what Dr. Luke did or didn't do, with regard to Kesha, it makes me wonder why a producer would be so adamant about continuing a professional association with a recording artist who speaks so badly of him.

Why would a producer be so insistent on maintaining a relationship with an artist who says that she's afraid of him and who refuses to work with him? Really, the only benefit I can see for such a producer would be to prevent this artist from working with anyone else; indeed, preventing the artist from ever working again.

So, although right now, we can't know if Dr. Luke is guilty of the abuses detailed by Kesha in court, it appears, at least on the surface, that he's guilty of sabotaging her career.

This is very sad, because whether or not the allegations turn out to be true, it would be yet another case of a woman failing to receive justice after having reported being sexually assaulted by a man, and it would be yet another case of the man in question finding a way to punish the woman for bringing these allegations to light.

Whatever the truth is in the case of Kesha vs. Dr. Luke, it reminds me of the problem all women today face when they accuse powerful men of sexual assault. Most often, they're ignored or their claims are rejected; their reputations are tarnished in the public domain and the man who's been accused finds a way to make the woman pay for her temerity to speak out about his (alleged) behaviour.

Sexual assault against women is rampant. Thousands of women are subject to it, every day, all over the world. Here in North America, where we pride ourselves on fairness and justice, women who make claims of sexual assault are often denied justice and even more often, they're raked over the coals by the lawyers of the men who've been accused.

It's not surprising why a majority of women don't come forward after having been sexually assaulted. They can anticipate their reputations being dragged through the mud, their career being jeopardized, their personal lives being held up to intense scrutiny, and the perpetrator being let off the hook - that is, if the courts even choose to pursue the case in the first place.

It almost seems like there's a conspiracy afoot; one in which men in power have made it virtually impossible for a woman to obtain justice with regard to sexual assault, and one in which the potential consequences of speaking out about sexual assault are often so dire that the woman is silenced, even before she's decided whether or not to pursue her case.

Sexual assault against women is rampant, and it will continue to be until women no longer live in fear of being punished for speaking out about their own experiences.

It's bad enough that it's nearly impossible in 2016 to obtain a conviction against the man who has perpetrated the assault, but to be silenced in this way, in a supposedly free society, is an outrage that should horrify every civilized, moral citizen.

I hope that Kesha is able to obtain justice, and that she can eventually resume her recording career. I also hope that we can all work toward a truly just society in which women who dare to speak out about their experiences of sexual assault - alleged or true- are no longer punished and silenced by powerful men and the institutions run by these men.

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