Tears streamed down artist Kesha’s face as a New York judge denied the singer an injunction that would have released her from her contract with Sony. Specifically, an injunction that would release her from her producer and alleged abuser, Dr. Luke.
Kesha was and still is working to void her contract with Kemosabe Records, a subsidiary of Sony, since October of 2014 when she alleged that Luke drugged, raped, and abused her at the beginning of her music career. Kesha’s ordeal does not just impact her, or even other female musicians.
This case brings an extremely important issue into the mainstream. This case is a light shining onto the stage of campus rape.
“With the hearing for Kesha’s case, a lot of people, especially college women, won’t go seek help when they are raped or sexually assaulted because the hearing sided with the defendant. So now not only do they not know what to do, they probably won’t want to do it, because no one would believe them, or side with them,” Sydnie Parodi, a sophomore psychology and sociology major, said.
This can be troubling, especially considering the number of men and women who will be sexually assaulted while attending college. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in four women and one in fifteen men will be sexually assaulted while in college. Many times, the perpetrator in sexual assault cases is able to evade punishment because of an existing or perceived power imbalance between them and their victim.
Kesha, like many other musicians, seems like a rich, prominent person. One would think that fame and fortune would help her get more status in her ongoing court case. “Kesha, let’s be real, she’s a white woman with money. She should have things for her that work out in her favor, and it still didn’t, when all these things were right for her,” Carmen Gray, president of SASE and a senior English major said.
Where does that leave the average person? “I don’t even have legal fees. I don’t have any of this (money). Who’s going to side with me?” Gray said, “We’ve seen it happen on college campuses. If the right person rapes you, it doesn’t matter.”
The perpetrator does not even have to have that much power or influence in these types of situations. They could just be the popular guy or girl on campus, rather than some big football star.
“Or it could be your boyfriend or girlfriend, and then you won’t want to report that, because no one will believe you,” Parodi said. Gray said that unbelief stems from the thought that if it is a person’s boyfriend or girlfriend who sexually assaults them, then the victim obviously signed up for it. Some act as if sex is the only thing people are looking for in a relationship.
“Your body is always yours, and whatever you choose to do with it is always your choice. People seem to forget that when people enter relationships,” she added.
Surprising to many, sexual assault is usually perpetrated by somebody the victim knows. That oftens makes it harder for those outside of the situation to believe the person who was assaulted. However, being acquainted with somebody makes it easier for them to take the trust, that intimacy, and pervert it in order to harm their friend or partner.
Sexual assault situations become even more tricky to address when they involve a victim who has a mental illness. Bridget Gompper, a junior public health major, said that in those cases, the claims of victims are often dismissed because people think the person having a mental illness translates to the person being incompetent or not really knowing what happened.
Carmen Gray added that people know the more stigmatized things stacked against a person, the easier a target that person is. People with a mental illness have a higher chance of being raped and sexually assaulted. As well, someone is more likely to be sexually assaulted if they are a part of the LGBT community, a woman of color, a woman living in poverty, or a person with a physical disability.
“People don’t go out with plans to rape someone, they go out with plans to have a good time because they don’t see it as rape,” Suzanne Shurling said.
Shurling, who works with the GSU Sexual Assault Response Team, said that the confusion about consent is a perceived ambiguity. She sees consent as either a person gave consent, or they did not. The ambiguity can be a “gray area where the really scary stuff lives,” an area which organizations like SART and SASE are trying to erase.
Shurling said, “We don’t define consent. People think if you don’t say, ‘No, stop!’ loudly and push you away, that everything outside of that is consent. Explanation of consent is clear. It’s ongoing. It’s willing. It’s active, not passive. It’s every time. It’s conscious.”
“If somebody is incapacitated, they can’t give consent. If somebody is freezing because of a fight or flight reaction, they can’t give consent,”
Colleen Daly, the director of media and strategic communications for End Rape on Campus (EROC) said that the phrase “no means no” is an outdated take on sexual consent. EROC is an organization founded by three sexual assault survivors that offers direct support to sexual assault victims, assists with student activism, engages in policy reform, and sends speakers to locations across the country to facilitate discussions about sexual assault.
One of the things that Colleen Daly and EROC advocate is affirmative consent, as described above. “If somebody is incapacitated, they can’t give consent. If somebody is freezing because of a fight or flight reaction, they can’t give consent,” Daly said.
“It’s the fact that we’re perpetuating a culture in which it is the burden of the survivor to continually say no, rather than the burden of the perpetrator to get affirmative consent.” Daly said, that that it is more inclusive to say yes means yes to get consent.
Consent, especially a “yes,” can be difficult to obtain from one’s partner when one or both of the people involved are drinking alcohol. Daly said that alcohol is the most prominent date rape drug. In those situations, it is crucial for survivors to cite affirmative consent and say that because they were not able to say no, they did not say yes to any sexual acts.
“None of us can know a person’s level of impairment. We can never decide when a person reaches that point,” Tim Mousseau said. Mousseau, a speaker for CAMPUSPEAK that talks about leadership, sexual assault, and innovation, spoke at GSU’s Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, March 29.
Interestingly enough, Georgia does not have a definition of consent in its laws, other than to state that the age of consent is 16. Georgia lawmakers have, however, amended the laws to clarify that wives in Georgia could be raped by their husbands.
Chapter 16-6-1 of the Georgia state code states that a person commits rape when “he has carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will, or a female who is less than ten years of age.” Rape occurs when “there is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.”
Ergo, according to Georgia law, a male cannot be raped.
Shows such as “Law and Order: SVU” have given many of us a good idea of how police handle sexual assault cases. However, how schools, Georgia Southern in particular, handle sexual assaults may be less clear. The administrative forum, including the Dean of Students and Equal Opportunity and Title IX offices, follows a different process, with different accommodations than the police.
Equal Opportunity and Title IX Director Joel Wright said there is a different standard of evidence in a criminal process. Criminal cases require a burden of proof, meaning it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed said act against the accuser.
GSU’s Title IX office uses the preponderance of the evidence to determine whether the respondent (the accused) is responsible for a violation of the student code of conduct. Preponderance of the evidence means that more than 50 percent of the evidence points to a violation by the respondent.
“We don’t step in because of social capital, the cost to us. It only takes 30 seconds to change someone’s life,” Mousseau said.
Stepping in to help someone in who cannot consent does not have to be difficult.
“‘Honey, you could be standing naked on the street and it’s still not your fault.’ There’s nothing you can do to deserve to be raped.”
“Distract the person like, ‘Hey, there’s a game’…You can even make a joke out of it, like, ‘Isn’t it more of a challenge if she’s sober?’ People think bystander intervention has to be confrontational, upfront and in your face, but it doesn’t always necessarily need to be,” Shurling said.
Bystander intervention helps end rape culture as well. When someone calls out their friend for saying something offensive that is not funny, that they would not want the friend to say to their sister, then the culture slowly changes. Part of changing the culture includes people engaging in conversations about healthy and unhealthy sex.
“Our society has taught women to be ashamed if something like that happened. Every victim I’ve worked with has felt something like, ‘If I didn’t lead him on, if I didn’t do this…’ And every time I have to tell them, ‘Honey, you could be standing naked on the street and it’s still not your fault.’ There’s nothing you can do to deserve to be raped,” Shurling said.
Daly said changing rape culture involves everyday activism, which takes many forms. If a person is a graphic designer, a poet, or legal savvy, for instance, they can use that ability and talent to address sexual assault. Everyday activism is a combined effort by parents, students and faculty.
According to Georgia Southern’s website, there is a special protocol in place to direct students who have been sexually assaulted to medical care. If a student informs Health Services that they have been assaulted, Health Services will refer that student to the Statesboro Regional Sexual Assault Center (SRSAC, a.ka. the Teal House). There, the student will receive medical services via a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). If needed, Health Services can provide the student transportation to SRSAC. The sexual assault center also provides counseling and support resources.
(912) 478-5641: GSU Health Services
(912) 478-5541: GSU Counseling Center (can confidentially discuss and report cases here)
(912) 478-5136: GSU Equal Opportunity and Title IX Office
(912) 478-3326: GSU Dean of Students Office (report form available here)
(912) 478-5234: GSU Public Safety
(912) 764-9911: Statesboro Police Department
(912) 489-6060: SRSAC
(912) 489-2225: SRSAC Hotline
Graphic by Rebecca Davis. Photos by Tahir Daudier, and Cristen Gullatt.