Like most Australian women, I read the media coverage of Taylor Swift and DJ David Mueller’s duelling lawsuits with great interest. Probably even more closely because I’m a lawyer.
In case you’ve been living under a rock this past week here is a bit of a summary: In his lawsuit, David Mueller claimed that Taylor Swift and her team had him fired from his job after claiming that he had groped Swift under her skirt during a photo opportunity alongside his girlfriend. He sued for $3million USD for loss of income.
Swift counter sued for sexual assault, claiming that the grope did indeed take place and provided witnesses and photographic evidence to support her case. She requested damages of $1 USD. I love that she did that, it was obviously about the principle and not about the cash. David Mueller had obviously been hoping she’d just decide to follow her own advice and “Shake it Off”.
Well I’m glad she didn’t. She fought and she won and women everywhere, including myself, were thrilled when Mueller’s suit was dismissed and the judge found in favour of Swift.
In pursuing her case against David Mueller, Taylor sent clear and incredibly powerful messages to women all around the world: no woman should ever have to tolerate this behaviour and no woman should ever feel ashamed to speak out against the perpetrator.
In the extensive media coverage that has ensued, there was one particular tid-bit of information that struck a deep personal chord with me and that was the testimony of Taylor’s mother Andrea Swift.
Andrea Swift said that despite being sick to her stomach when she learned of her daughter’s assault, she decided against calling the police. As a mother, and as a member of her daughter’s management team, she wanted to protect her daughter from the huge public scrutiny that this sort of accusation would bring to someone with Taylor’s international fame.
Andrea also told the court that she was reduced to tears when her daughter expressed ‘bewilderment’ at why she had ‘thanked’ the DJ and his girlfriend for the photo, just moments after the assault took place and asked herself “Why did I teach her to be so polite?”
And that, right there is what got me. “Why did I teach her to be so polite?”
You see I’m a mother of two daughters, but I’m also a lawyer who works with survivors of sexual assault every single day. I know just how prevalent sexual assault is in our society today. And it scares me.