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This Is The Real Lesson From Taylor Swift’s Sexual Assault Trial

The transcripts from Taylor Swift’s testimony show the world why women usually stay quiet about sexual assault.

This Is The Real Lesson From Taylor Swift’s Sexual Assault Trial
Taylor Swift [Photo: John Shearer/LP5/Getty Images for TAS]

Taylor Swift won her years-long legal battle on Monday against a DJ who reportedly grabbed her butt during a photo shoot before one of her concerts in 2013. The DJ, David Mueller, who was 51 to Swift’s 23 at the time, was fired shortly after Swift complained to his employer. He then sued her for $3 million, at which point Swift countersued for $1. A jury decided in her favor.

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The fact that she even went to trial is a mark of her privilege. It’s something most women never do. The kind of unnerving and disturbing incidents that happened to Swift happen daily to thousands of women. They have, in fact, happened to so many women on their daily commutes that many cities’ subway systems have implemented routine announcements about it. Something similar to what happened to Swift has likely happened to someone you know. It’s happened to me, and like most women, I never took the creep to trial.

Swift’s trial offers a glimpse at why most women don’t pursue these cases.

Here’s a snippet from her trial (via Slate):

Mueller’s attorney Gabe McFarland asked Swift why the photo shows the front of her skirt in place, not lifted up, if Mueller was reaching underneath to grab her butt. “Because my ass is located in the back of my body,” Swift replied. She offered a similar response when asked whether she saw the grope taking place. When McFarland pointed out that the photo shows Swift closer to Mueller’s girlfriend than Mueller himself, Swift answered, “Yes, she did not have her hand on my ass.”

Wasn’t Swift critical of her bodyguard, who didn’t prevent such an obvious assault? [asked McFarland] “I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass,” she told the attorney. But, McFarland said, Swift could have taken a break in the middle of her meet-and-greet if she was so distraught. “And your client could have taken a normal photo with me,” Swift countered.

Swift is white, wealthy, and has millions of fans who publicly support her, and her credibility was still repeatedly challenged. Most women don’t have the resources that she has; they know that they likely wouldn’t be successful in similar cases. And they know that even if they are, they’ll face legal fees, time off work, and have their credibility similarly questioned.

To that end, Swift released a statement following her court victory yesterday. It read in part:

I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society, and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.

About the author

Kathleen Davis is a Senior Editor at FastCompany.com, managing the leadership and work-life section. Previously, she has worked as an editor at Entrepreneur.com, WomansDay.com and Popular Photography magazine.

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