Freeing Kesha Absolutely Essential


Kesha was recently denied her plea to be released from a contract professionally tying her to her alleged rapist. Her tearful reaction upon hearing the judge’s ruling stimulated reactions from every corner of the Internet. Though this latest failure of the American criminal justice system comes as no surprise, the enraged response might be indicative of meaningful societal progress.

Since filing her lawsuit in Oct. 2014, Kesha has been unable to produce new music as her contract with Sony mandates she must do so with Luke Gottwald, her alleged abuser. Due to widespread protest, Sony is expected to sever Gottwald’s employment, but Kesha’s circumstances speak to a larger systematic mishandling of rape charges in America.

Opponents of Kesha receiving justice have propagated numerous stereotypes about rape victims that are easily dispelled. To address the first—that Kesha might be lying to “get back” at Gottwald for an unknowable reason—the Sentry responds by dropping any and all useages of the word “alleged” from this point onward. Kesha is innocent of making a false rape claim and ending her career for personal gain until proven guilty.

Additionally, there is no such thing as rape money. Full stop. A survivor of sexual abuse, in the absolute best case scenario, might see their assailant sentenced to less time in jail than someone who was caught in possession of marijuana. Kesha will not receive any sort of payout when her time in court is over. Taylor Swift’s donation of $250,000 was not a symbolic gesture: After two years of having no significant source of income and paying legal fees to battle an entity as unspeakably large as Sony, Kesha’s financial situation must be strained.

#FreeKesha is not the place to be disparaging of Kesha as a musician or personality, and it is certainly not the place to voice doubts about the legitimacy of rape allegations. In the case she lost, Kesha wasn’t even pressing criminal charges against her rapist—she was only asking to not be forced to work hundreds of hours with him in close quarters against her will. She was only asking for some modicum of agency.

Kesha is, above all else, a human being. Her position as an overproduced pop star should not inspire any degree of apathy towards her plight, but it should generate a significant amount of fear. If such a prominent figure with all the power that comes with fame and wealth can extract justice for the system, what happens to rape victims who lack those privileges?

The subset of people who refuse to believe Kesha are the same people who perpetuate the culture that allows men like Daniel Holtzclaw, a convicted rapist who targeted women of color from an underprivileged neighborhood knowing their accusations would likely be silenced, to walk free for so many years.

They are part of the reason why one in four women will be sexually abused during her time in college, why those rapes are underreported by victims, and why in January 2015 the Department of Education began federally investigating 94 postsecondary academic institutions— including CU Denver, CU Boulder, and the University of Denver—for failing to properly address campus rape allegations. The latter issue was not born from a place of malice, but rather from a society that has normalized making villains of victims because it’s easier to do than prosecuting abusers.

Freeing Kesha is about more than resolving a lone musician’s accusation. It’s about what happens to the rest of us when even a hyper-privileged woman from one of the most privileged nations in the world is more likely to be met with challenge than compassion in her time of need.

—Taylor Kirby

Above: #FreeKesha goes beyond reproachful comments about the artist.

photo courtesy of

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