Last week, Taylor Swift won a civil case against ex-DJ David Mueller who sexually assaulted her in 2013. Here’s why the incident matters.
As a woman, I live in fear of sexual assault on a daily basis – when I’m walking home after dark, when I’m alone in a cab in broad daylight, when I’m going on a first date with a man. Even with my handy pepper spray and a blunt knife in my bag, I never truly feel safe. I fear being groped, molested, and raped more than being robbed, kidnapped, and sometimes even murdered. But most importantly, I fear the aftermath of my assault. I am afraid that no one will believe my testimony or take me seriously again. I am afraid that people will look down on me for an incident that is not my fault and somehow try to make me feel like it is. It is for all these reasons that I am ecstatic about Taylor Swift’s win against her sexual assault perpetrator.
In a world where celebrities and their lives are often paraded as the epitome of perfection, it is difficult to comprehend such imperfect confrontations. When Mueller, who was invited to meet Swift before a concert in 2013, grabbed the pop icon’s behind under her skirt, Swift did not go public with the accusation. She did what most women do, and kept the episode under wraps. When her security personnell approached Mueller only to be faced with him refuting the claims, Swift reported the incident and provided photographic evidence to Mueller’s place of employment, the radio station KYGO. KYGO fired the DJ two days later. Post being fired, Mueller struggled to find work anywhere to the extent that he filed a defamation case against Swift in 2015. He sued her for $3 million in damages and still denied the fact that he had assaulted her. This is when the lawsuit became public. Swift countersued for a symbolic sum of $1 and last week won the case after it went to trial.
Taylor Swift has an unfortunate and undeserved reputation of being a “slut” and being “silent”. Because of the public nature of her romantic relationships and the fact that her music draws from personal experiences with love and boys, people believe they have the right to label her in certain derogatory ways. Even more infuriatingly, society believes that once a woman is labelled a “slut”, she is no longer entitled to bodily autonomy. This is then coupled with accusations of Swift being a “silent” spectator who does not participate in women’s marches or rant on Twitter (despite episodes like donating a hefty sum to Kesha to assist her with legal expenses in her fight against sexual assault). Both of these labels are used as excuses to somehow make her testimony less credible and worthy.
The problem is that Swift isn’t the only one. Women are constantly scrutinised for everything they do. After the verdict was declared, Swift admitted, “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.” She took on the case to prove to young women that it is possible to hold their perpetrators accountable, stating, “My hope is to help those whose voices should be heard.”
In light of the outcome of the trial, I, amongst many other women, am not only relieved but also empowered. This is what a public sexual assault case can do. This is why Taylor Swift’s win matters.
Image Credits: TMZ