Kesha’s 2011 Deposition Video Raises An Important Question — VIDEO
Plenty of fans and celebrities are currently rallying behind Kesha. Recently, Lady Gaga dedicated her powerful Oscars performance of "Till It Happen To You" to the singer, which Kesha publicly thanked her for, and fans protested in New York City on her behalf. This all comes in response to a New York Supreme Court Justice denying Kesha's injunction request to leave her recording contract at Sony, where she worked with Lucasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald. In 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit against her former producer, alleging he raped her and sexually, emotionally, and verbally abused her. Dr. Luke has repeatedly denied these claims and has countersued Kesha for defamation. In the days since the judge's decision, a video began circulating of a deposition Kesha gave in 2011. She was appearing in court because of a 2010 lawsuit, filed by her former management DAS Communications, against herself and Dr. Luke. DAS alleged that Dr. Luke "induced, intimidated, and convinced" Kesha to leave DAS to sign a record deal through his own imprint. In 2012, the DAS case was decided with Kesha appealing, according to Forbes.
In the video, the "Tik Tok" singer is asked a series of questions and explicitly states under oath, "Dr. Luke never made sexual advances at me." Kesha's mother, Pebe Sebert, appears in the video clip and says "no" when asked if anyone told her that Dr. Luke had slipped her daughter a date rape drug. Kesha also says "no" when asked if he ever gave her a roofie, or if the two had an intimate relationship. Although it's not included in the video below, The Hollywood Reporter obtained a copy of the deposition transcript, in which Kesha is asked, "Did you ever tell your mother that you woke up in a hotel room in Gottwald's bed and you don't recall what happened that night?" She responded, "I don't remember."
In response to the video, the 29-year-old singer's lawyer, Mark Geragos, re-issued a 2014 statement to People, which claims:
Luke's latest legal maneuver comes as no surprise; it's a desperate Hail Mary and a pathetic attempt to once again blame his victim. He threatened to destroy Kesha's life and the lives of her family if she didn't cover up his sexual assaults in a 2011 deposition; Luke is now following through on his threats. Unfortunately protecting abusers out of fear happens all too often with battered women. This case is about Luke's physical, emotional and psychological abuse of Kesha and her fight to get him out of her life. After being driven to the brink of death and into rehab, she's no longer going to allow herself to wither away at the hands of her abuser as he tries to blame the victim.
Bustle has reached out to Dr. Luke's publicist regarding the claims that he wants to "destroy her," but has not yet heard back. In September 2015, a spokesperson for the producer told The Hollywood Reporter,
If Kesha now regrets her career being mired in legal proceedings, it’s entirely her making. It was Kesha who chose to file a lawsuit falsely alleging abuse to gain advantage in contract negotiations, and now she must accept the consequences of her improper actions.
You can watch the video clip for yourself, which features snippets of the deposition edited together:
While we have no way of knowing the veracity of either Kesha or Gottwald's claims, the claims within Geragos' statement raise an important question: Is it a common response for alleged sexual assault victims to deny that it happened? As it turns out, there is evidence that supports the idea that sexual assault victims may initially deny abuse or protect their abusers out of fear.
Trauma Can Cause A Delayed Response In Reporting Assault
The White House Council on Women and Girls' January 2014 "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call To Action" report highlights the effects of trauma and how it may take time for sexual assault victims to actually report what happened. The report states:
Sexual assault cases can also be difficult to investigate because of the effects of the trauma itself. Victims of rape and sexual assault sometimes have difficulty recalling the event, and scientific research has found that the trauma after a crime like rape can damage the parts of the brain that control memory. As a result, a victim may have impaired verbal skills, short term memory loss, memory fragmentation, and delayed recall.
Another statistic from the White House's report that's worth noting is that a 10-year analysis found that only 2-10 percent of reported rapes are falsely reported.
Shame May Lead To Silence
The majority of sexual assaults are not reported to police. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 68 percent of sexual assaults are unreported, based on an analysis of data compiled from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' "National Crime Victimization Survey" for 2008-2012. As for why this could be true, the U.S. Department of Justice's "The Sexual Victimization of College Women" report from 2000 found a number of reasons women don't report incidents of sexual assault. The report states,
Such answers included not wanting family or other people to know about the incident, lack of proof the incident happened, fear of reprisal by the assailant, fear of being treated with hostility by the police, and anticipation that the police would not believe the incident was serious enough and/or would not want to be bothered with the incident.
This research — and the idea of not wanting family or others to know — ties in with the following firsthand account of someone staying silent. In Nancy Venable Raine's 1998 memoir After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back , she writes,
The feeling of shame is so intense for rape victims that many never tell anyone what happened to them. Even in psychotherapeutic settings, victims of rape often avoid talking about what happened to them. Despite more than two decades of change in social attitudes about rape, I still found it difficult not to feel ashamed when others reacted to me with embarrassment or discomfort. And this feeling of shame silenced me... Shame silences because it encloses the entire self.
When Raine's book was first published, a review in The New York Times stated, "There are few published first-person accounts of the experience of being sexually pillaged and its aftermath. After Silence is one of the first and, I would wager, it is always going to be one of the best."
Victim Denial Can Be Common
As echoed in the previous two points, victims may deny their abuse. On their website, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape recaps common victim behaviors and writes, "It is common for survivors of sexual assault to initially deny they were abused." It cites the words of Joe McGettigan, who was the lead prosecutor in the Jerry Sandusky case: "Humiliation, shame and fear equal silence. These emotions cause that response."
The organization also explains,
Offenders reinforce these feelings by the things they say and do to victims. They use the shame and fear to bind the victim to them and isolate them from others who might help them. The victim is left feeling alone, isolated and very different from everyone around them.
Furthermore, PCAR writes,
A victim's view of the offender's actions change over time... It is normal for a victim’s story to evolve throughout the investigative process. Initially a victim may say nothing happened. It is not uncommon for victims to delay reporting sexual abuse or to deny that they were abused when they are initially questioned. Reasons could include fear of the stigma associated with the abuse, embarrassment and retaliation.
Battered Woman Syndrome Sheds Light On The Cycle Of Abuse
Battered Woman Syndrome is a psychological condition that can result from years of abuse. The symptoms lend themselves to a possible explanation as to why someone might deny abuse or continue being close to someone who harmed them. As explained on FindLaw,
The victim feels helpless because she has convinced herself that the abuse is her own fault, yet she cannot understand why the abuse continues if it’s her own fault. She becomes convinced of her helplessness, and that the abuse cannot be escaped. Thus, battered woman syndrome develops.
Two possible reasons, according to FindLaw, that women stay in these relationships include: "She fears for her safety" and "She irrationally believes that the abuser is all-powerful and will hurt her if she contacts the authorities and seeks help." As explained on the National Network To End Domestic Violence's website,
Personal safety and economic security are inextricably linked for victims of domestic violence. For many victims, concerns over their ability to provide for themselves and their children are a significant reason for staying in or returning to an abusive relationship.
NNEDV also notes, "Batterers make it very difficult for victims to escape relationships. Sadly, many survivors suffer from abuse for decades."
Following the court's ruling on Kesha's injunction request, Dr. Luke's attorney, Christine Lepera, released a statement to Rolling Stone commending the judge for her decision:
The New York County Supreme Court on Friday found that Kesha is already "free" to record and release music without working with Dr. Luke as a producer if she doesn’t want to. Any claim that she isn’t "free" is a myth. The sound decision Friday by the Court in denying Kesha's motion for an injunction made it clear Kesha's allegations of purported abuse were unconvincing and that she had no basis to void record contracts and copyrights… The goal of Kesha's counsel throughout has been to obtain a more lucrative contract through a shameless campaign of outrageous claims they will never stand behind in a court of law.
As Dr. Luke has said repeatedly, the allegations against him are outright lies that have been advanced to extort a contract renegotiation and money. Kesha and her counsel have cavalierly subjected Dr. Luke and his family to trial by Twitter, using a vicious smear campaign to ruin his reputation for financial gain while failing to support their claims… It will further be shown that the incidents alleged never happened.
Kesha's lawyer released the following statement to Billboard in October 2014:
This lawsuit is a wholehearted effort by Kesha to regain control of her music career and her personal freedom after suffering for ten years as a victim of mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault at the hands of Dr. Luke. The facts presented in our lawsuit paint a picture of a man who is controlling and willing to commit horrible acts of abuse in an attempt to intimidate an impressionable, talented, young female artist into submission for his personal gain. Kesha is focused on moving her life and her career beyond this terrible time.
Sony and Kemosabe Records, Dr. Luke's label housed under Sony, told the presiding judge that Kesha's claims are "transparent and misguided attempt to renegotiate her contracts," according to The Hollywood Reporter.