Written by Paula Ukrainets

If you follow news in the music world or occasionally check the “trending” sidebar on your Facebook page, you may have read about Kesha’s recent court case loss. Kesha was trying to get out of an exclusive recording contract with her producer Dr. Luke, who she claimed was sexually assaulting and harassing her. The judge ruled against Kesha, and the media world blew up—scores of musicians and public figures, like Blood Orange and Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast, came out in her support.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, as many as 68 percent of sexual assaults in the United States go unreported—so it is fairly likely that Kesha’s loss of the court case could discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward with their stories. For some, another recent and slightly less-publicized news story in the music world may also be discouraging. Heathcliff Berru, the ex-CEO of Life or Death PR, was accused of sexual assault through social media by many of his female clients.

I want to ask you, whether you have been a victim of sexual assault or not, to not be discouraged by these two stories. Since Berru was accused of sexual assault, he has stepped down from his position as CEO, admitted himself to rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, separated from his wife, and has, for what it’s worth, issued a public apology—all without any legal intervention. He is also hoping that this outcome will empower more people to come forward with allegations of sexual assault, and I’m hoping for that too. While Kesha may not have won her lawsuit in court, in the eyes of the majority of the public, she is a survivor, whereas Dr. Luke’s reputation in the music industry is unlikely to withstand such a powerful media storm.

For many survivors of sexual assault, coming forward is discouraged by the fear of forever being associated with your perpetrator. As valid as I consider that fear to be, I will also forever be in awe of Amber Coffman and Bethany Cosentino, two of Berru’s victims. They told their stories, and the stories gathered momentum throughout the music industry. Berru was forced to confront his actions, subsequently making changes that positively affected him, everyone around him, and hopefully his victims as well.

As powerful as you may consider a single person to be, a community will always be more powerful in a number of ways. While the judge may have ruled against Kesha, a large percentage of the music community stands with her, and that is important because people are finally starting to acknowledge and tackle sexual abuse within the music industry where drugs and alcohol can often be used as “excuses” for such behavior. I put excuses in quotation marks because there aren’t, or shouldn’t be, any viable reasons for invading a person’s physical, mental, and emotional space. The only way we can move away from this notion of excuses is through conversation—conversation that survivors of sexual abuse can be the most capable of starting.

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