Screen Shot 2020 02 10 at 3.32.06 PM copy 40d95

What Kesha’s Legal Battle Shows Us About the Treatment of Sexual Assault Survivors in the Court

by Georgia Dodd

On February 7, a judge made a ruling in the defamation lawsuit against Kesha. She ruled that Kesha tarnished Dr. Luke’s reputation when she texted Lady Gaga that he raped Katy Perry. Perry said on the record that this assault never happened. Kesha now has to pay Dr. Luke, her rapist, $375,000 for late royalties.

This horrifying instance of injustice shows just how prevalent revictimization is in the justice system. While there have been some wins for sexual assaul tsurvivors, more often than not, their reputations are ruined and they are blamed for their own rape. But, no matter if they win or lose, survivors of sexual assault leave court feeling revictimized and discredited. Many even go on to say that going to trial made them feel “raped all over again.” It’s because of this culture in the justice system that many victims of sexual assault don’t report their rape. According to RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network), “out of every 1000 sexual assaults, 995 [perpetrators] will walk free.” That means 0.5 percent of perpetrators will face charges.

If you look closely at the timeline of this case, you can only feel heartbroken for Kesha. She continuously takes hit after hit in the courtroom. Kesha is not even criminally prosecuting him, she just does not want to work with her rapist or the company that supported him. After she lost the lawsuit to try and gain her freedom from Dr. Luke’s recording label, the famous image of Kesha crying in court spread around. Many people came out in support of Kesha and made the hashtag #FreeKesha and #IStandWithKesha trend on Twitter. A series of appeal suits were filed to no avail.

Kesha posted on her Instagram after the announcement: “I have nothing left to hide. I did this because the truth was eating away my soul and killing me from the inside. This is not just for me. This is for every woman, every human who has ever been abused. Sexually. Emotionally. Mentally. I had to tell the truth. so the outcome will be what it will be. There’s nothing left I can do. it’s just so scary to have zero control in your fate. but this is my path this life for whatever reason…. #Friday.”

But, Kesha was able to release new music, her 2017 album Rainbow, including her iconic song “Praying” which serves as a gospel ballad of survivor resilience. Kesha won critical acclaim across the board for this emotional song, from music experts and celebrities. Although Dr. Luke was not mentioned in the song by name, many believe that he was the subject of the song.

However, as most abusers do, Dr. Luke tried to find some way to control Kesha’s life again. He claimed that Kesha owed him royalties for this incredibly powerful song. Dr. Luke continued his defamation lawsuit against Kesha, claiming that the allegation of sexual and emotional abuse has tarnished his reputation and, that by privately texting Lady Gaga a rumor that he had raped another musical artist, she defamed him.

After two years of time in court, the judge said two days ago that she “made a false statement to Lady Gaga about Gottwald [Dr. Luke] and that was defamatory.” This felt very similar to the judge’s ruling in the first lawsuit that Kesha brought forward in 2014. The New York Judge ruled that Dr. Luke did not commit a hate crime, as Kesha accused him of. He said, “Although [Dr. Luke’s] alleged actions were directed to Kesha, who is female, [her claims] do not allege that [Luke] harbored animus toward women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha. Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime.”

This blatant support of a rapist by the court really shows why so many victims of sexual assault are scared to confront their abuser. This was a way for her to try to regain control over her musical career and her own personal freedom after years of manipulation and abuse at the hands of Dr. Luke, but so many still think that she is a “gold digger” or “lying for attention.” Numerous other celebrities have mentioned how abusive and controlling he is to work with.

This is especially painful to witness because Kesha’s court case began just three years before the #MeToo movement really began. While Kesha’s court case ended in her crying, the #MeToo moment showed their support and emphasized just how unfair and sexist the justice system can be. It was hard to see her lose and be constantly revictimized. But, Kesha’s story has mostly fallen under the radar. She wasn’t even included in the Time Magazine “Silence Breakers” Person of the Year Issue. Do you have to win your rape case in a court of law to be considered an actual victim of sexual assault?

As Twitter was reacting to this heartbreaking news, a lot of people noticed the similarities with something Taylor Swift said in her recent documentary, Taylor Swift: Miss Americana. Swift had her own lawsuit, that she won, against a DJ who groped her while having their photo taken. Swift said, “You don’t feel a sense of any victory when you win because the process is so dehumanizing.”



Though this is definitely a loss for Kesha and her team, #FreeKesha and #IStandWithKesha are trending on Twitter again as we show our support. And if we know anything about Kesha, we know that she is strong and resilient in the face of adversary. Dr. Luke and his team better start “Praying” because we know that Kesha will make it through this and come out swinging again.


Header image courtesy of Pop Trigger via Youtube

More from BUST

Kesha Has Risen, And Dr. Luke Better Start Praying

Lady Gaga Defends Kesha In Legal Battle Against Dr. Luke

Why Is Kesha Missing From Time’s “Silence Breakers” Person Of The Year Issue?

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.