At least 300,000 women are raped every year in the United States.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how many rapes happen because 68 percent of rapes are not reported. And it’s easy to see why.
This past week, pop star Kesha was denied an injunction against her producer, Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald. He’s the man she says abused her sexually, verbally and emotionally. The decision means Kesha has to stick to her original contract with Sony and create six more albums under Dr. Luke’s record label. Although Sony says Kesha doesn’t have to work directly with Dr. Luke, she has been vocal about not wanting to associate with him in any way. But the ruling does not allow her that kind of freedom.
Because of this and the legal battle between her and Dr. Luke, Kesha’s career is at a standstill. Some people have pointed this injustice, comparing Kesha’s experience with the of Chris Brown. Even after the performer was accused of abuse against his then-girlfriend Rihanna, he still enjoys a thriving music career. But when Kesha came out as a victim of sexual assault, her career suffered.
This public case of sexual assault sheds light onto what happens to sexual abusers — essentially nothing. In fact, 97 percent of rapists are never incarcerated.
Because of the nature of sexual assault and rape cases — where little evidence can be gathered unless a rape kit is performed on the survivor within 72 hours of the assault — there is not much courts are able to do. The matter gets more complicated if date rape drugs were involved, but the survivor did not seek out medical attention right after the assault. Date rape drugs can render someone unconscious or unable to remember the events that transpired. For legal issues, this calls into question how reliable a victim’s testimony may be, since their version of the events could be muddled by the drugs.
The premise of “innocent until proven guilty” can make it difficult to convict anybody of rape because there’s little to no evidence to back up a survivors’ claims.
This leaves survivors with little reward for coming forward and it deters a lot of them from reporting these crimes in the first place. But with a crime that’s so pervasive in society, that shouldn’t be the case.
Victim’s voices should be weighed more heavily in these cases. Of course, not everybody tells the truth all the time, but when it is shameful to come forward as a sexual abuse survivor, the fact that people still try is meaningful in and of itself. Studies have found that only 2-8 percent of rape claims are false. That leaves 92 percent of claims that are true, yet might not yield any legal consequences.
It’s hard for victims to come forward and report their experience for a variety of reasons. For some, retelling the story is like reliving that moment and it could severely damage their mental health. For others, coming forward as a survivor labels them to the rest of society and attaches the stigma of sexual violence around them for the rest of their life. The courage it takes for survivors to come forward should be received with support, but that’s not the case in our society.
Kesha’s case is representative of what other women go through when they report these crimes. Their abusers often go unscathed while survivors are left with unfair verdicts and unwelcome memories of their assault. Rape survivors are also likely to develop PTSD, with three in 10 rape survivors developing PTSD within their lifetime.
College students are in a particularly vulnerable position, since a woman’s chance of being raped in college is 25 percent. The mishandling of sexual assault cases in universities has been a hot topic for some time, especially after incidents like Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia University, who carried a mattress around campus every day until she graduated or until her rapist was expelled from the school. The outcome was the former.
Colleges often fall into the same trap as the U.S. legal system and abusers do not face consequences.
In a Facebook post, Kesha said that her suit was never to negotiate her contract, it was about being free from her abuser. But now the issue, she says, is bigger than her.
“I think about young girls today — I don’t want my future daughter — or your daughter — or any person to be afraid that they will be punished if they speak out about being abused, especially if their abuser is in a position of power,” she posted. “Unfortunately I don’t think that my case is giving people who have been abused confidence that they can speak out, and that’s a problem. But I just want to say that if you have been abused, please don’t be afraid to speak out.”
She ended by saying that she is a feminist, but above all she is a humanist and wants to support her fellow humans in being safe.