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Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

Is Kesha Really Free?

03.08.16


Kristen Amrhein


On February 19, 2016, New York judge Shirley Werner Kornreich denied pop singer Kesha “Ke$ha” Rose Sebert a court injunction that would have allowed her to record new music outside of her contract with record label Sony Music and producer, Lukasz Sebastian “Dr. Luke” Gottwald.


The singer filed a lawsuit against Gottwald in October 2014 to void contracts between Sebert, Gottwald and his business subsidiaries, allowing the singer to produce music with other record labels. The suit claims that for over 10 years, Gottwald has “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused Ms. Sebert to the point where Ms. Sebert nearly lost her life,” scribd.com said in their briefing of the case. By doing so, Gottwald has “maintain[ed] complete control over her life and career,” continued scribd.com.


Sebert spent six months in a rehabilitation facility due to an eating disorder. Kesha’s mother, singer-songwriter Rosemary Patricia “Pebe” Sebert, told People magazine that Gottwald pressured her daughter to lose weight, comparing her to the size of a refrigerator.


Recently, video of Sebert’s testimony from a 2011 deposition has surfaced, casting doubts on the legitimacy of her suit. In the video, Sebert claims Gottwald never made any sexual advances on her. Furthermore, when asked if Gottwald had ever given her date-rape drug called a “roofie,” Sebert replied, “No.” However, this deposition was filled for a separate lawsuit filed back in 2010 by DAS Communications, a music management company owned by music manager David Sonenberg. At the time, DAS Communications had offered Sebert a record deal; when she did not accept, DAS Communications filed a deposition claiming that producer Gottwald interfered with the deal, convincing Sebert to leave the label.


Gottwald has spoken up since the court ruling. On February 22, 2016, he tweeted, “I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her. Kesha and I were friends for many years and she was like my little sister.” Gottwald further stated, “Kesha and I made a lot of songs together and it was often good but there were creative differences at times. It’s sad that she would turn a contract negotiation into something so horrendous and untrue.” Gottwald also tweeted a picture of Sebert asleep, but quickly removed it from his Twitter feed.


Currently, Sebert is under no legal obligation to continue producing albums with Gottwald. However, she is still prohibited from producing music with any other producers, effectively gagging her career. As a result, fans and supporters have started the “Free Kesha” movement. They’ve protested with signs and hashtags and have recently created a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to buy Sebert out of her Sony contract.


Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Kelly Clarkson, and others have shown their support on social media. Taylor Swift has donated $250,000 directly to Sebert to help with any financial needs. Jack Antonoff, Swift’s producer, tweeted that he is willing to help Sebert create new music even though he isn’t sure of the legal stipulations. Zedd, another musician and music producer, also offered his help in tweeting, “@KeshaRose very very sorry to hear about the whole situation. I’ll be happy to produce a song for you if you want my help.” Adele also publicly supported Sebert in her acceptance speech at the Brit Awards.


Lady Gaga continued to show her support at the Oscars. She shared the spotlight with young men and women who’d been victims of sexual assault and performed “Till It Happens To You,” a song she co-wrote with Diane Warren for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the rape and assault that occur on college campuses. Gaga’s interest in the issue of sexual assault on college campuses is more than professional: Gaga has been open with the public about her experience being raped at the age of nineteen.

Rape and assaults happens a redundant amount of time on campuses across the nation (1 in 5 for women and 1 in 16 for men, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center).


Here at Hartwick, the Women’s Center “focuses on issues specific to college campuses such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, relationship issues and women's bodies,” according to the group's mission statement on Hartlink. The main goals of the Women’s Center include: “harbor solidarity, support and free expression for women; spread awareness of the accomplishments and struggles of women throughout the world, fully embracing a portrait of women’s ‘her-story.’”


The Center actively empowers women’s choices and opportunities “for living healthy, satisfying lives,” as well as sponsoring events that “promote awareness of these topics, offer available resources (on campus and in the community) and provide educational materials and pamphlets.” The Women’s Center also works with local agencies such as Violence Intervention Program (VIP), located in downtown Oneonta.

Kelsey Wegener, co-president of the Women’s Center, talked about Sebert’s situation: “Everyone is very upset about how Kesha is being treated. Artists break contracts all the time for reasons as simple as being ‘unhappy,’ yet Kesha was abused and is being forced to continue her contract with Sony.” For example, Zayn Malik, former band-member of One Direction, left the group without needing a public legal battle. Sebert’s supporters point to Malik’s example as proof that Sebert could have been freed from her contract easily and with dignity.


Wegener continued, saying, “I personally think this incident speaks volumes to how victims are treated everyday in society. When victims try to speak up about the abuse, when they attempt to get justice, they aren't believed. They're called liars. Until the society changes their attitudes toward victims, nothing will change.”


According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), “Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.” Moreover, the percentage of false reports is currently between 2% and 10%. For example, a study of eight U.S. communities, which included 2,059 cases of sexual assault, found only a 7.1% rate of false report, reported the NSVRC. Those numbers mean approximately 146 of 2,059 sexual cases were false, but 1,913 were true.


Despite the setback she has faced in having been denied the court injunction, Sebert has maintained a positive public attitude. A day before the court ruling, Sebert tweeted to everyone who has been supporting her the past year and half: “thank you for all the support in my legal case, animals [the artist’s nickname for fans]. i love you all. it’s meant the world to me. xo xo.”