A dollar for a priceless point
Despite some earworms from her 1989 album, I admit that the singer, Taylor Swift, wasn’t someone I’d ever “fangirled”. At least, not until now.
And she’s not caught my attention for her artistic work either, but rather for her unswerving stand against a radio DJ who “grabbed a handful of my ass” (her unapologetic words in court).
First, a brief recap: back in 2013, after a meet-and-greet session, Swift accused David Mueller of lifting her skirt and groping her during a backstage photo shoot.
The consummate professional nevertheless continued with the session, but her management team later informed the radio station, which led to 55 year-old Mueller’s dismissal. He maintained his innocence and sued Swift in 2015 for $3 million for loss of income and a tainted reputation.
Not to be cowed, the now 27-year-old Swift shrewdly countersued for assault and battery for $1. Yes, you read right: one dollar. Her 2017 net worth, according to Forbes, is $280 million.
With one fell swoop, she dismissed the oft-hinted at argument that women make such claims for attention or for financial gain.
Well, given her celebrity, she grabbed headlines by seeking that dollar to “prove a point, not to bankrupt him.” And if you read selected court transcripts, Swift deftly ensured that the spotlight fell squarely on Mueller and his unwelcome action, thus giving us all a powerful lesson in standing our ground.
Just about every “innocent perpetrator” chestnut was lobbed her way, and she shot them to smithereens.
There is a photo in which she’s seen posing with Mueller and his then girlfriend. His hand is indeed behind her but nobody looking at it can tell that anything untoward is happening behind. Perhaps the only hint was the fact that she was leaning away from him. If she was so upset, why didn’t she prematurely end the meet-and-greet to gather her wits? Besides, no one else purportedly witnessed the offense.
To that last argument, she brilliantly countered, “The only person who would have a direct eye line is someone lying underneath my skirt, and we didn’t have anyone positioned there.” Touché! This flies in the face of all the usual counter-arguments that a woman did not scream loudly enough, run fast enough, react emotionally enough or report quickly enough.
That’s the thing with sexual assault (and newsflash: grabbing someone’s posterior is also assault). It’s unwelcome – pure and simple. So it follows that survivors don’t go around expecting it, and knowing immediately how to react to it. It can catch us unaware, anywhere: in Swift’s case, it was while she was working.
Oftentimes given the arguments stacked against us, there is often a tendency to second-guess ourselves first, instead of first reporting the perp.
We wonder if we somehow “asked for it” with our words, actions or clothes; if we are making mountains out of molehills.
“Was that simply an accidental brush of a stranger’s body against me in a crowded public bus?” “Is he just being friendly putting his arm round my shoulder?” “Was that joke about my chest purely innocent?” If any of those acts made you uncomfortable, then the simple answer is, “No, No, and No.”
I think it is safe to say that we’ve all experienced something similar, and still dither about calling out unwelcome sexual advances unless it’s an all-out assault. While every unwelcome move, touch and statement may not cause physical scars, they each nevertheless chip away at our self-worth and confidence as women.
And perhaps the most pertinent lesson of all is that we need to think of ourselves – first. And not fret about the damage we might cause our perpetrators by exercising our fundamental right to speak out against those who violate us.
When Mueller’s attorney tried to steer Swift on a guilt trip by asking how she felt about Mueller losing his job after her claim, she said, “I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions – not mine.”
No woman ever asks to be sexually violated or demeaned in any way. The act remains squarely the decision of the perpetrator. It’s sad that we still have to tell ourselves this in 2017. But one cannot repeat this often enough.
Meanwhile Swift’s $1 has begun reaping dividends: according to a report, the American Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) national hotline “saw a 35% increase in use from Friday to Monday after Swift’s trial.”
I’d say that’s a dollar well won.
Author: Brenda Haas
Editor: Anne Thomas
There was a time sexual harassment at work was an issue shrouded under a veil of shame. Women who were at the receiving end of unwanted sexual attention either from peers or superiors did not report it for fear of ridicule. In case they raised a voice against it, their employment could be terminated. Sexual harassment at work is one of the leading causes of attrition for women at work.
What are the common problems that women face in the workplace? DW’s officer for equal opportunities said: It’s not very easy to talk about it because a lot of this is not out in the open. I’ve been doing this job for seven years now and I have just one woman who came to me, to sort of complain, to tell me what was going on, but with the attitude of “please don’t do anything, because I am grown up, I can deal with it, but you should just know.”
Date28.08.2017 | 16:02
Tags#sexualassault, Abuse, Brenda Haas, Forbes, Mueller, RAINN, rape, sexual violation, Taylor Swift, women's rights