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Having informed conversations regarding sexual assault with attendees at the Century Village Community Services Health Fair. Palm Beach County Victim Services & Certified Rape Crisis Center, Sharon Daugherty with Consumer Affairs colleagues, Jeff Eidelberg & Anthony Gregory.
Four years after she released her last single, three years after she accused her producer of rape and just over a year after her claims of abuse were dismissed in court, singer Kesha has returned – and it’s clear that she’s not content to leave the events of the past behind.
Although she doesn’t name and shame in her new single Praying, which she released last week, it’s clear that Kesha is singing about her tumultuous legal battle with her former producer, Lukasz ‘Dr. Luke’ Gottwald, who in 2014 she accused of sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment and two counts of rape (he countersued and she eventually dropped the charges after a lengthy and complicated series of events).
Kesha’s comeback could have been a feud-inflaming rant of a song – or even a vacuous pop ditty; either would have gone viral. Instead, she has released something more nuanced and, in turn, has opened a new chapter in the public discussion surrounding sexual violence. In one song, she has turned the narrative about rape on its head.
Nestled among lyrics like ‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell/I had to learn how to fight for myself’, she also belts out ‘I hope you find your peace’ and ‘Sometimes I pray for you at night/Someday – maybe – you’ll see the light’.
As someone who was sexually assaulted as a teenager, I know why Kesha has focused on compassion and not anger. Simply: she isn’t angry. She isn’t crumbling, or trying to convince us that she was telling the truth. We can choose to believe her, we can choose not to. She doesn’t care; but she does care about finding a way to move on – and that involves waving goodbye to her bitterness. This narrative is one that’s previously been missing in the myriad of think-pieces, interviews and debates on rape. Fury has been the emotion fuelling the fire – and that’s no bad thing. We do need anger. It’s what drove women to campaign for the first statutory definition of rape in 1976; it’s what pushed women to lobby for the marital rape exemption to be abolished in 1991. And that anger is still propelling us: in recent years, horror at the creeping prevalence of online pornography and the messages it subtly teaches boys about girls, has led to consent being discussed in classrooms around the country. Righteous fury at the men who force themselves onto and into women’s bodies simply because they want to – and simply because they can – is good for us. It was good for me. Becoming angry at the man who assaulted me was an essential part of getting better. If I hadn’t done that I’d still be blaming myself.
But it was also bad for me. Following my assault at university, I battled depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for years before eventually dropping out. It was my life that was plunged into uncertainty, not his.
Celebrating resilience – and showing women that it’s possible to rebuild their lives is essential
In April, following the Ceremony in the Garden event for Victim Rights Week, the Palm Beach Post featured this article:
By Mike Stucka – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Posted: 1:44 p.m. Thursday, April 06, 2017
WEST PALM BEACH —
After a childhood of abuse was followed by a rape that battered most of her body, Bridgit Stoffer has accepted she’ll never be the person she was. But she still has hope, the Palm Beach State College art professor said at a Thursday ceremony for crime victims.
“Some days I feel completely broken and wonder if I’m worth fixing. I’m haunted by memories no one should have to think about, much less relive,” she said at the seventh Ceremony in the Garden. But she offered a thought: “If we believe tomorrow will be better, we can bear today.”
Later, she told a reporter, “I will always be changed. I don’t know that it will get better, but I can be better.” And from volunteer work, becoming an art professor and drafting her memoirs, Stoffer, 34, of Delray Beach is finding ways to better herself and rebuild her life.
Thursday’s annual event, part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, melded falling blossoms from trees at Mounts Botanical Garden just west of the city with the comfort of therapy dogs and guided relaxation lessons. Boxes of tissues were scattered among the audience of about 60.
A survivor of domestic violence who asked to be identified only as Christine from of southern Palm Beach County said, “My ex-husband was very very sick, and was dangerous,” when she sought help at a police station for herself and a child. People around her didn’t believe her story because her husband concealed his alcoholism.
“True strength is keeping it all together when everyone around you would understand if it all fell apart,” she said. She said she learned to take life day by day when she had to. Sometimes, it became hour by hour and even minute by minute.
Angela Johnson, whose son was gunned down in South Bay one morning as he walked his dog two years ago, realized she only talked about Harry Johnson, 35, if she was talking about his murder. She’d never thought of herself as a victim until someone referred her to Palm Beach County’s victim services department, which helped her.
“When I need to cry, I cry. But I choose to live,” said Johnson, whose voice broke as she described finding her son’s body at the crime scene. “… You are stronger than you think. You are stronger than you know.”
“Those messages can help other victims,” said Nicole Bishop, director of the county’s victim services department, which helps about 3,600 people a year.
“Some hope can come from sharing those stories,” she said.
The organization offers advocacy, therapy, support groups, help with restraining orders, and other services. People needing help can call a 24-hour hotline at (561) 833-7273.
Other local events in National Crime Victims’ Rights Week include a Walk For Victims’ Rights, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday at Currie Park, 2400 N. Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. People can learn more at www.sa15.org online.