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WHEN TAYLOR
SPOKE UP (UPDATE)

UPDATE: The jury has sided with Taylor Swift in the so-called "groping" trial, and excused her mother, Andrea, and team from responsibility for culpability in the firing of DJ David Mueller. Mueller had sued Swift and her team, charging that her allegations about his having committed sexual battery during a 2013 meet-and-greet had cost him his job.

Swift has just released the following statement:

When Taylor Swift took the witness stand in Denver, it seemed many people had forgotten—she was being sued. This public rehashing of an ugly breach-of-personal-space (a clinical term for gross sexual assault) was not instigated by Swift lashing out at a guy who lost all sense of courtesy, boundaries or couth. It was a result of a $3,000,000 suit brought against her because his employer decided they didn’t cotton to that sort of conduct.

Swift—who countersued for sexual assault—had the “privilege” of retreading the experience of a man, an industry professional who should know better, sliding his hand under her garment, and grabbing her “ass.” When the picture-perfect star tersely hurled the term, she more than echoed the attitude of the kind of man who might consider such an action funny, a good story—or who just decided to act on his worst impulses. She’s not coming at him, people. On the day of the incident, she went back to the dressing room and told her mother—more than many victims of sexual assault or harassment get to do—and they had the gentleman escorted from the building. If they let his employer know, providing physical back-up, that’s only good stewardship: who wants someone repping their call letters who crosses those kinds of lines?

That the station said, “We don’t think so” is a victory for decency. In an industry where women are shushed or demoted—or promoted in exchange for their silence—a radio station stepped up and terminated the guy. Because beyond being bad for relations with Team Taylor, his violation sets a bad precedent across the board.

But what’s so egregious here is that we live in a world where this is a debatable, where an aggressor can just keep coming instead of taking responsibility for his actions. Where instead of apologizing he feels justified in suing the victim for the consequences of (as Swift pointed out in her testimony) his choices.

Andrea Swift, her mother, not only had to take the stand—and defend actions that in the momentum of a concert cycle in motion are locked in—but had to question her own parenting. After all, the mega-multiplatinum blond didn’t cause a scene; this was most likely to keep the incident from turning into a cyclone as people whipped out cell phones to tweet, snapchat or Instagram the moment. This, protector rues, “made me question why, as a parent, I had encouraged her to be so polite.” We live in a world where parents are forced to question the wisdom of teaching their children manners, courtesy, respect? Yes, the same world where a person saying “no” or “that’s not appropriate” (no matter how many people agree) is not acceptable.

As Karen Glauber points out with the title of her brilliant “In Other News, Today Is Wednesday” piece following the ouster of L.A. Reid, this sort of behavior is hardly unprecedented. Nor is perpetrator David Mueller’s allergy to consequences. What is news is an artist standing up for herself, digging in and saying, “No.”

And what’s especially heart-rending is even with witnesses, proof, a fairly clear pool of who did it, initially even the Swifts opted to keep silent. Again, Andrea Swift acted as a mother, concerned for the welfare of her child more than a clinical execution.

“I did not want this event to define her life,” she insisted in testimony reported by People. “I did not want every interview from now on to have to make her include what happened to her. I did not want her to have to live through the endless memes and GIFs that tabloid media and Internet trolls would come up with.”

We absolutely wanted to keep this private,” she added, “but we did not want him to get away with it. He sexually assaulted her.”

I’ve been there. Didn’t tell my parents for fear of the emotional damage it would do to them. I couldn’t face grown-ups asking questions, insinuating a tomboy from an all-girls school in baggy jeans and a t-shirt asked for it because I was in the teenage perpetrator’s home while the mother was at work. Even though I was kicked in the stomach and thrown into a wall. Because having to talk about it over and over with people who didn’t know me, care about me, would want to destroy me to save this football-playing jock who took my virginity, felt even more terrible to me, as a 15-year old girl, than everything else that had transpired. Did Taylor Swift or her people get the DJ fired? Doubtful. She’s got better things to do, and she trusts nature to take its course. Did Taylor Swift make it up,  as the DJ is alleging? Seems hard to believe in all the galaxies of meet-and-greets, scads of young girls, tons of music industry executives streaming through. Why would she single him out?

Our culture has come to a place where “reasonable doubt” often silences the ones who’ve been assaulted. There is no meaningful support for them, especially as they go through the judicial system. And for the defendant in these cases, it’s no holds barred because—as we saw in the Stanford sexual assault ruling—it would have a “severe impact” on the man.

So, we shut up and shut down. It’s a rare person who will stand up and speak out in the face of this glare. Maybe it’s because he sued her. Maybe it’s because she recognized that she had more evidence, more ability to tell. Maybe it’s because she has a platform and enough support that when she says enough is enough, Taylor Swift is unstoppable. Taylor Swift stood up, because so many of us couldn’t. And even more importantly than women, or anyone being pursued inappropriately, speaking up, it would be nice if men would check their game. Maybe the rule of thumb should be: Would I want someone doing that to my daughter? My sister? My assistant? My wife? If you wouldn’t want it done unto those women in your life, then don’t do it.

Not to the cocktail waitress, the perky promo rep who hasn’t been through the ringer, the assistant who knows it’s her job to make you feel welcome. Here’s the deal: We want to be nice, friendly, helpful. Being interested in what you’re saying is not a license to grab someone’s butt—or suggest what someone ought to be doing to you later. It means you’re on the list, and “have fun at the show.”

Rather than worrying about “standing up,” it would be nice to not have to worry at all. Let’s hang out. Be pals. Let’s leave the conjugal conjugations elsewhere. My Dad raised me not to poop where I eat—and it’s happened that I’ve had fiancées in my business – because when you work the kind of hours we all do, industry people understand.  Still, there’s a massive difference between mutual attraction and intimidation, even in this hook-up world.

So, think—about your daughters, sisters, assistants, friends. Then, as the Georgia Satellites once brayed, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself.”

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