#FreeKesha has been trending all over Twitter for the last few days. Kesha, well known for shiny pop songs like Tik Tok and Die Young, has not released any music since 2012 and entered rehab in January 2014 to deal with an eating disorder. In October 2015 Kesha filed a lawsuit against Dr Luke, her record producer, who has produced music for Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Katy Perry, Nicky Minaj, Flo Rida and Miley Cyrus. Kesha began working with Dr Luke after he discovered her when she was 17 years old.
The lawsuit centres around Kesha’s Sony contract to make six albums with Dr Luke’s record label Kemosabe Records. The lawsuit paperwork documents the ways Kesha has said Dr Luke abused and coerced her over a 10-year period, ranging from her saying he controlled her career, to saying he had sexually and physically abused her, including drugging and raping her. On Friday, a Supreme Court judge ruled that Kesha could not have a preliminary injunction, allowing her a temporary break from her contract with Sony and Dr Luke. The judge stated: “My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing.”
Kesha broke down in tears after the judgement and since then Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Lena Dunham, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Lily Allen, Iggy Izalea, Lily Singh and Margaret Cho, among others, have publicly offered their support for Kesha. Taylor Swift has donated $250,000 to support Kesha’s legal battle.
In the UK 72 per cent of girls will be emotionally abused by a boyfriend before they reach 16, while 32 per cent will be sexually abused. 25 per cent of women will be abused by a partner and approximately 85,000 women are raped in the UK each year. The lawsuit against Dr Luke and the abuse Kesha says he perpetrated against her can seem distant from us. Multi-million dollar recording contracts and celebrity supporters can turn Kesha’s life into “entertainment news” rather than something linked to the abuse women and girls are subjected to in our neighbourhoods, families and churches.
The corporate machine has kicked in and Kesha’s wellbeing and any harm that may have been caused to her is de-legitimised and invalidated in the face of a corporate contract. Morality or ethics seem to be irrelevant.
As Christians, we can look at the situation and shake our heads; this is what happens in corporations and businesses focussed on making money. We don’t have these issues in the church. Do we?
In March 2014, Bill Gothard, an influential conservative leader resigned from the Institute of Basic Life Principles after 34 women accused him of sexually harassing them. A lawsuit has now been filed against Gothard by 10 women. The documents claim that the institute “frequently received reports of the sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate/unauthorised touching occurring to certain interns, employees, and participants of its programs,” but failed to investigate or report any of it until February 2014.
Bishop Peter Ball was jailed in 2015 after admitting to 18 offences against young men and teenagers between 1977 and 1992. Although reports of his abuse were made throughout the time he was in active ministry, documents from 1992 found that he was not charged in order to minimise embarrassment to the Church of England.
Timothy Storey, a graduate of Wycliffe Hall and a church youth worker, was convicted this month of raping two teenage girls from churches he worked in and had groomed hundreds of children on Facebook. Although both girls reported Storey’s abuse to the Church of England, one was told that the church needed to think about Storey’s wellbeing, while the other girl received a letter of apology from the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. No action was taken against Storey until years later when both girls saw an article reporting Storey’s grooming of children online and reported to police the abuse he had subjected them to.
The Church and Christian culture may not be protecting multi-million dollar contracts, but we are not immune to men’s abuse and exploitation of women and children. Rather than protecting and seeking justice for vulnerable and damaged people, churches are often more interested in protecting their brand of salvation and the reputation of their leaders. The love of the redemption narrative means that men like Mark Driscoll are supported by movers and shakers in Christian culture to build a new platform and brand.
There is little we can do for Kesha and her family, beyond offering our public support and praying for them as they continue to fight for her right to autonomy and safety. However, we can build Christian communities that are safe for the vulnerable and that hold to account abusers and those who misuse their power. We can ensure our churches have robust safeguarding policies and that our leaders and pastoral teams fully believe disclosures of abuse.
Otherwise when we reach the other side of eternity we may find Jesus sends us off with the goats, telling us: “I was raped and you did not believe me. I was abused by the vicar in my church and you protected him and condemned me. I was shamed, controlled, coerced and damaged and you did nothing.”