Pop singer Kesha is facing a dilemma no musician should ever have to face—either to make music with her alleged abuser or to not be able to make music at all. Kesha accused her producer Dr. Luke in October of 2014 of not only drugging and raping her, but also manipulating and exploiting her since she signed with him as an 18-year-old. She is also suing her label Sony for enabling Dr. Luke’s abusive behavior and neglecting to help her get out of her contractual obligations. Because she is under contract with Dr. Luke, she is not allowed to further her career and make music outside of his management.
Kesha filed a request for a preliminary injunction on Friday Oct. 30 that would allow her to produce music independently of Dr. Luke. She claimed her finances and career were suffering from her inability to produce music in a safe space away from her alleged abuser. Kesha sent informal letters to Sony in the past requesting to work independently, but the company rejected these requests.
It is incredibly shameful that an alleged victim of abuse and sexual assault in the music industry has to jump through contractual and legal hoops to be freed of their abuser. Many female victims of sexual assault in the music and entertainment industries are silenced because of the impact that a lawsuit may have on their careers. It may be difficult for high-profile musicians to report assault because—as seen in Kesha’s case—they are publicly ridiculed and have a difficult time sustaining their “tarnished” careers after coming out as victims.
There needs to be more awareness and policy enacted to protect these victims of sexual assault in the music industry. They are often stigmatized and labeled as liars or frauds—especially if they are well known celebrities—whether as the victim or the perpetrator.
As seen in the infamous Bill Cosby sexual assault cases, dozens of women were not believed as victims because people didn’t think Cosby could be an abuser. Celebrities who are victims also face this double standard.
Kesha should be able to work and support herself through the lawsuit; she should be able to make music independently. It can be emotionally and mentally harmful and exhausting to be forced to work with a perpetrator of abuse—throughout a lawsuit, no less. There should be some sort of distinct policy or law mandating the suspension of contractual agreements amongst musicians and producers if there is an ongoing lawsuit against the producer.
Since the case is ongoing and no court decision has been made, Dr. Luke is still considered an innocent man. I find it unlikely that Kesha would fabricate the story of her abuse, as she became very successful under Dr. Luke’s production through her many hit songs over the past few years. It is doubtful she would try to ruin this successful partnership unless she truly experienced assault and abuse from her producer.
Regardless of how logical or illogical her claims may seem, Kesha should still be respected and protected from her alleged abuser. It’s very brave that she is risking her career—and her reputation in the music industry—to fight sexual assault. It would be incredibly disappointing and wrong if Kesha was victimized for defamation and had difficulty returning to the music industry.
It’s scary to think that an alleged assaulter legally has the right to control the career and talent of their victim. I hope Kesha’s case helps other young women who were abused and exploited by powerful men in their search for fame to come forward and know they have the right to fight back.