Taylor Swift is one of the world’s most well-known pop singers, and has become a lyrical voice of her generation. Now, after winning a symbolic US$1 in a court case against DJ, David Mueller who groped her at a meet and greet, she has become a voice for women worldwide and more importantly, victims of sexual assault.
Sitting in a crowded courtroom, under the watchful eye of the worldwide media and her fans, Taylor Swift made the most monumental move of her career, and arguably her life. A move that impacted women all over the world, but most importantly made an invaluable difference to those victimised by sexual assault. “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault, because it isn’t,” the 27-year-old said.
It was in this moment, the way that she handled this court case, that encouraged women everywhere to stand up for themselves. She reminded the world that sexual assault is never okay, it is never ‘boys being boys’, or an over-exaggeration. She told victims of sexual assault that while it is okay to be scared, it is not fair that you feel too afraid to come forward. The world-famous pop star set an example for women by refusing to let this change her, get the better of her or beat her. On the stand during this groping case, Swift wasn’t one of the most popular contemporary female recording artists, she wasn’t one of Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ in the world, she was every-woman and that is why this court case was so important.
A Win For Women
It began in 2013 when Swift was doing meet-and-greets before her concert and former DJ David Mueller slipped his hand under her dress and “grabbed [her] ass underneath [her] skirt”. At the time, Swift was just 23 years old and she reported the incident to her mum and security team. It resulted in Mueller being fired from his job at Colorado radio station KYGO-FM. Two years later Mueller sued Swift, asking to be awarded US$3 million in damages to compensate for his lost earnings as he claimed he didn’t do it; he said there was a jostle and someone else did it and that he believed his hand was on her rib. Swift counter-sued, arguing it was him that assaulted her, and sought a single US dollar in compensation.
During the trial, Swift’s mother, Andrea Swift, said she did not go to the police when her daughter first told her she had been groped because: “I did not want this event to define her life… I did not want her to have to live through the endless memes and gifs that tabloid media and internet trolls decided to come up with – doctoring the pictures… and making her relive this awful moment over and over again,” she said. Swift’s lawyer also said the star had wanted to keep the situation “discreet and quiet and confidential”. This decision, to keep the incident private, while completely fair, also highlights the under-reporting of sexual assault from victims because of the ridicule and struggles they know they will receive.
In the United States, two out of three sexual assaults in the country go unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual violence organisation in the US. Similarly, in New Zealand, only an estimated 9 percent of incidents are reported to police, according to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Restoring Soul report.
Swift’s determination to not back down also called attention to how, in some cases, defence lawyers can attempt to undermine the credibility of alleged victims. There were instances in this case where the standard blame-the-victim took place: ‘she should have told the police’ or ‘she should have stopped doing meet-and-greets’. But Swift presented an unflinching testimony when asked about the incident. When Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland, showed the photo of Mueller allegedly grabbing Swift from behind, he asked the singer why the front of her skirt wasn’t ruffled or out of place if the incident she said took place actually happened. To which Swift said: “Because my ass is located in the back of my body.” This unwavering testimony continued when it was suggested that someone other than Mueller had groped her. “He had a handful of my ass. I know it was him,” she said. At another moment, she responded: “I know exactly who did this. It is not alleged. It is a fact.”
Similarly, in some sexual assault cases, women’s bodies are defined in relation to men, and what the treatment of our bodies can do to them. This was exemplified when she was asked about her ‘role’ in Mueller’s firing, to which she said: “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault, because it isn’t. He and you are suing me and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions, not mine.” Swift’s frank responses were a loud and clear reminder to women than public ownership of female bodies will not be tolerated. Swift’s lawyer, Doug Baldridge, told the press: “It takes people like Taylor, wonderful people like Taylor, who we all know, to stand up and draw these lines.” He added: “As I said in the closing [argument], that dollar, that single dollar, is of immeasurable value in this ever-going fight to figure out where the lines are, what’s right and what’s wrong.”
This is an excerpt from our feature article on Taylor Swift in the September/October issue of M2Woman. To read the full article you can buy a copy from our shop or from local newsagents.