Whenever a celebrity is in the spotlight, people are going to have opinions. But, when it's a serious situation involving sexual assault that is not the time to turn it into humor. Take the jokes about Taylor Swift's trial, which have been surfacing since Thursday when the 27-year-old singer took the stand and testified in front of an eight-member jury over the allegations she made against radio DJ David Mueller. Swift claims he groped her while taking a photograph with her before her concert in Denver, Colorado on June 2, 2013, which he denies.
In September 2015, Mueller filed a lawsuit claiming Swift's accusations were false and led to him getting fired from his job at KYGO. Per the Chicago Tribune, according to court documents, Mueller's job cited "the morality clause in his contract" because they believed he changed his story regarding the alleged incident. Swift then filed a countersuit against Mueller in October 2015 and accused him of assault and battery, according to BBC News.
The singer has received support, even from people who aren't her biggest fans, but there are many who are taking time out of their day to make light of something that shouldn't be seen as a laughing matter.
During her testimony, Mueller's attorney, Gabriel McFarland, questioned Swift about what happened (via E! News). Here's what she claimed:
“It was a definite grab. A very long grab ... I don’t think it would be wise to estimate time in court, but I know it was long enough for me to be completely sure it was intentional ... He stayed latched on to my bare ass cheek ... I felt him grab onto my ass cheek underneath my skirt. The first couple of milliseconds I thought it must be a mistake, so I moved to the side very quickly so that his side would be removed from my ass cheek, but it didn't let go.”
There is also a photograph, which is being used as evidence in the case. It shows Mueller with his right hand behind Swift. According to the Associated Press, Swift's side believes the photo proves groping happened, whereas Mueller's side says it shows him jumping into the photo.
Whether or not you believe someone or don't like them as an individual, a sexual assault allegation is serious and should be taken seriously. This isn't just about Swift, it's a bigger issue of people not taking these types of allegations seriously. People who allege they've been sexually assaulted often aren't believed, which is unfortunate and needs to change. By turing sexual assault into a joke, it only makes the situation worse.
As one Twitter user wrote, "I doubt you are going to prevail in this trial. It's just as silly as your whining about losing your virginity to a loser." Some are even using this as a way to comment on Swift's butt, "#TaylorSwift has no ass what is this trial about?" A different person posted, "Taylor swift is @ a court trial talking about a man grabbed her ass and yet I'm thinking to myself 'What ass'??????"
There are also many of Twitter users standing up for the 1989 artist. As someone tweeted, "the way people are talking about taylor swift's trial is gross, u do realise [sic] whether u love or hate her this is about sexual assault??" Swift's friend Lena Dunham also proudly supported her on Twitter:
By making jokes, people are diminishing the seriousness of the matter. Far too often are women not taken seriously when they report sexual assault. The reason many don't come forward about it is because they're afraid they won't be believed or taken seriously.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), out of every 1,000 assault and battery crimes, 627 are reported, 255 lead to arrest, 105 cases get referred to prosecutors, 41 cases will lead to felony conviction, and 33 criminals will be incarcerated. RAINN also reports, "Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about 2 out of 3 go unreported."
The question that is so often asked is, "Why don't people report abuse?" Per RAINN, "Of the sexual violence crimes not reported to police from 2005-2010," one reason 13 percent of victims didn't report it was because they felt the authorities wouldn't do anything to help.
That's how another entertainer, Abigail Breslin, felt. In April, the Scream Queens actor claimed she had once been raped by someone she was in a relationship with, but chose not report it. "I did not report my rape," she shared on Twitter. "I didn't report it because of many reasons." She continued and claimed,
I was in complete shock and total denial. I didn't want to view myself as a "victim," so I suppressed it and pretended that it never happened. Second of all, I was in a relationship with my rapist and feared not being believed. I also feared that if my case didn't lead anywhere, he would still find out and would hurt me even more. Thirdly, I knew how hurt my friends and family would be after finding out, and I didn't want to put them through that.
Swift has stated that her countersuit is not just about herself. Her countersuit against Mueller claims,
Resolution of this Counterclaim will demonstrate that Mueller alone was the perpetrator of the humiliating and wrongful conduct targeted against Ms. Swift, and will serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts.
As reported by BuzzFeed, Mueller is suing for up to $3 million, whereas the "Bad Blood" singer is only asking for $1. According to her attorney, this is the singer's way of showing other women that "you can always say no."
So the next time you make a joke about sexual assault, whether it's in reference to Swift or not, think about how it may impact the individuals who have experiencing abuse, including ones who haven't been able to report it because of the stigma that already exists. The joke will only further reduce an issue that so many people already don't take seriously into a laughing matter.