Lena Dunham is the latest celebrity to speak out in support of Kesha. The “Tik Tok” artist recently lost a legal battle to be freed from a contract with Sony that forces her to work with producer Dr. Luke, a man Kesha says has abused her for a decade. Dr. Luke, whose given name is Lukasz Gottwald, has denied all charges.
In her newsletter Lenny, Girls co-creator and women’s rights advocate Dunham argues that the verdict is about more than the recording artist: “What’s happening to Kesha highlights the way that the American legal system continues to hurt women by failing to protect them from the men they identify as their abusers.”
Gottwald’s company Kemosabe is a subsidiary of Sony and controls Kesha’s recording and publishing. Kesha claims Gottwald drugged, raped and emotionally abused her for years. She sought an injunction that would allow her to begin recording on her own. “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way,” Kesha said. But on Friday, a judge ruled Kesha could not “decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated,” leaving the singer in tears.
Though Sony has said Kesha will no longer have to work directly with the producer, Dunham argues Dr. Luke can continue to control the singer’s career. He could, for instance, bury her albums as a repercussion for publicly exposing him.
“Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family,” Dunham writes. “The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?”
As Dunham points out, about 98% of abusive relationships involve financial abuse. Often, abusive partners make their victims feel trapped by cutting off their financial resources. It’s the number one reason why women return to abusive relationships after they leave.
Speaking out against abuse is personal for Dunham, who wrote about her own sexual assault (and her difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the encounter was an assault) in her book, Not That Kind of Girl. In the letter, she writes that reading the verdict in Kesha’s case made her sick. “It all created a special brand of nausea that comes when public events intersect with your most private triggers,” she says.
Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson have come out in support of Kesha since the verdict with the hashtag #FreeKesha on social media. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to Kesha to help her with her financial needs.
Dunham says she’s encouraged by the public outcry against Sony and Dr. Luke. “We are not scared anymore of losing what we worked for, of being branded hysterical or difficult, of being targeted and silenced by men in power,” she writes.
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