Powerful Voices Aren’t Just for Singing

liti9nd4zadezg4asmq6.jpg

Courtesy of Jezebel

At this point, everyone knows the ballad of a sexual predator: “Her dress was too short. Her bra was sticking out. She was drunk and didn’t really say no. She was sober and didn’t really say yes—but I know she was just being a tease. She said no—but she was asking for it.” And when we think of sexual abuse, we often think of the generic local case of a girl gone missing and the “overprotective” boyfriend, or the nameless girl who was slipped a date rape drug in her drink and found in a ditch.

But no one would ever think of celebrity idols, renowned and deeply loved singers and entertainers, as falling victim to these kinds of horrors. Hollywood seems as if it is some idyllic utopia, full of cash and fame, when in reality it has proved it can be the exact opposite.

Whether it be the sleazy guy on the side of the street attacking a teenager or public figures like Dr. Luke and Harvey Weinstein, the message remains the same: sexual predators are a real threat to everyone and the growing epidemic must be acknowledged and changed. In a time in which the president of this country and one of the most powerful men on Earth, Donald Trump, has been accused of groping women and prides himself on assuaging women, it has never been more crucial to bring awareness to this ever-present issue. Empower others to speak out against abuse, and shatter the victim-shaming stigma surrounding sexual assault.

Since the beginning of time and to this day, discussing abuse and sexual assault is labeled as “taboo.” It is not palatable for the public. It is too graphic, too gruesome, too uncomfortable—assault is not what the people want to hear about. But the truth of the matter is that abuse is something people need to hear about. Nothing will ever change unless we disrupt the apathy that exists. Predators will keep getting away and women will have to continue living in fear unless something is done to stop these criminals.

Celebrities like Rihanna, Kesha and Taylor Swift have taken action. Their powerful voices that are constantly heard on the radio have been used to stand up against sexual abuse.

Back in 2009, singer Rihanna Fenty served herself justice when she brought her then-boyfriend Chris Brown to court on the basis of physical abuse. What started as verbal assaults spiraled into life-threatening physical violence. Fenty was brutally beat, held in a headlock, and suffocated. Fenty won the case, and Brown served five years in probation and 180 days in jail.

Eight years later, Rihanna has done countless interviews discussing the subject, encouraging millions of her fans across the globe to speak up about their personal traumas. She is still the bold and beautiful Rihanna Fenty.

But it doesn’t stop there. After over a decade of emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, in 2014, pop singer Ke$ha sued her producer Dr. Luke and attempted to break her contract with his label. Although the lawsuit was initially rejected, after two more years of gruesome legal battles and petitions from thousands of fans, Ke$ha successfully terminated her contract in early 2016.

Now, in 2017, Kesha has garnered the support of millions, including those of prolific celebrities like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, shared her story to the world, and released her third album “Rainbow”. The album, which discusses her personal independence as a woman and urges her fans to be resilient, contains her popular song “Praying” that describes the emotion she went through in the process of freeing herself from Dr. Luke. Removing the $ from her name, Kesha has risen once more from a horrific experience with the help of her fans and her music.

Furthermore, just this past August singer-songwriter Taylor Swift joined the movement when she filed a lawsuit against radio talk show host David Mueller. She sued him for groping her four years ago during his show but only for $1. Her meager amount symbolized that her goal was not to make him hand over cash and move on but rather to receive justice and encourage the silenced voices of others to speak up.

Though these women, these strong, powerful, successful women, are only three of, unfortunately, many abuse cases, it is crucial to recognize how they have helped fuel the ongoing battle against sexual assault. If they had never shared their story, raised their voice, and shone a light onto a dark and vile situation, society would adamantly keep a straight face and continue to be apathetic.

It is absolutely necessary that we recognize their strength and reflect that in our own lives. Despite the constant scrutiny of the public eye and media sensationalization, these women were able to surmount their own personal fear, as well as the bombardments of social stigma, and bring themselves the justice they deserve.

However, though these advances in the movement are heartening, we must not undermine the fact that (according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network ) almost 99% of sexual perpetrators still walk free. Men and women all over the world are still suffering and do not have the means of having their voice heard. It is up to us to to project their voices and to carry the legacies of powerful women like Rihanna and Kesha.

Sexual assault, no matter how you slice it, starts with a mindset. It is imperative that the mindset of blaming the victim is destroyed. It’s time to speak up about it in classroom settings and educate our generation that it is never the victim’s fault. It is never consent unless both partners clearly state “YES.” It is never acceptable to tolerate any practice that strips another human being of their basic rights.

The fight does not stop until that number goes down from 99% to 0%. Although these powerful voices will continue to sing their symphony of strength to us, it is up to us to pick up where they left off and craft a world of harmony.

To learn more about domestic violence and sexual assault, go to www.rainn.org

To support the movement and get involved, visit www.nomore.org

-Rania Rizvi