How Taylor Swift's Trial Showed She's Still The Person I Always Loved
For the last year, Taylor Swift has largely remained off the grid — until now. Over the last couple of weeks, Swift's trial against radio DJ David Mueller has brought her name back into headlines. On Monday, Mueller was found guilty of sexually assaulting Swift during a meet and greet. The trial ended in a victory for Swift, and she was awarded the symbolic $1 she requested in order to set an example for women who may not feel like they can speak out with their own sexual assault allegations. (Mueller told CNN, "My heart is still set on proving my innocence.") But perhaps more important than the actual win are the statements Swift made while she was on the stand. As a longtime fan, her words were proof that she's still the person I've always loved.
For more than a decade, Swift and her music have been a part of my life. I listened to her first album while getting ready for my high school graduation. I walked down the aisle to an orchestra playing "Mine" at my wedding last year. I've traveled to different states to see her. I've camped out on sidewalks for the chance to meet her. In my eyes, there was not much she could do that would ruin my investment in her and her career, but then, last year, everything changed.
Kim Kardashian released a recorded conversation where Swift seemed to agree to Kanye West's "Famous" lyrics, and Swift's Instagram statement on the manner, in which she claimed he never asked her about being called "that b*tch," specifically, became a meme. It was a narrative she said she never asked to be a part of, and as a fan, I didn't really want to be a part of it, either. Had she really been dishonest or was it all a misunderstanding like she said?
Her battle with West isn't the only thing that caused some of her former fans to turn on her, lest we forget the Calvin Harris/Tom Hiddleston debacle of 2016. When Swift's seemingly serious romance with Harris came to an abrupt end last June, only days later news broke that she was seeing Hiddleston. Some people thought she was moving on too quickly or that she might have cheated on Harris, while others took the stance that her new relationship could just be a publicity stunt.
And then, there's the fact that people have long been critical of Swift's feminism and how she shies away from making public statements on politics or other important topics. Swift obviously isn't required to share her views the way some other celebrities choose to, but it's still become a point of contention for those who have turned against her.
Even though I questioned these situations myself, I still supported Swift as I always have. I've been here, waiting for news on her next album, even though sometimes it feels like it'll never come. Sometimes, I feel like the only one left on the Swift train, but her recent show of strength and advocacy seems to have turned things around, at least somewhat.
Last week, Swift was called to the stand during her trial, where Mueller's lawyer asked her several questions about what happened the day she met the DJ. It must have been a stressful situation for her, but she didn't waver; she made sure her story was clear, with absolutely no room for interpretation.
"I have experienced every awkward encounter. This was not jostling," Swift said when she testified. And then, clarifying exactly what happened, she added, "He did not touch my rib, he did not touch my hand, he grabbed my bare ass." And then, perhaps the most important statement of all from her testimony: "I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is in any way my fault, because it isn't."
Since Mueller was suing Swift (she countersued him for assault), claiming that she'd caused him to lose his job at the radio station where he worked when the incident occurred, it was an incredibly bold statement for her to make. She was not backing down, and she was not allowing anyone to blame her assault on her, the victim.
In a time where so much sexual assault goes unreported, Swift's words were so necessary. She wasn't just standing up for herself; she was standing up for those who don't feel like they can stand up for themselves. According to Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), only 344 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police, and 20 percent of victims say they chose not to report the incident for fear of retaliation. Victim blaming has never been OK, but it still happens, and Swift using her influence to remind people of that will undoubtedly change the way people think and it could change lives.
On Monday, after the verdict was decided, Swift released the following statement:
There are a lot of issues people may have with Swift, but what truly matters right now is that she has become such an awesome example by taking a horrifying event and turning it into something that could actually help others who need it. In this case, the good she's doing outweighs what people don't like about her, and it would be great to see more of this from her in the future. She may not have spoken out about politics or feminism the way people thought she should have in the past, but she's speaking out now, and what she's done in the past shouldn't diminish the way she's using her voice today.
The change that could come from Swift's trial could be huge, and it wouldn't be possible without her and people like her, coming forward to tell their stories and using their platforms for good. This is the Swift I have known all along, and this is the one I will keep defending.