Taylor Swift is challenging sexual assault myths with her groping case

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Yahoo Beauty

In her ongoing legal battle involving David Mueller, Taylor Swift took to the stand on Thursday to defiantly insist that the former radio DJ groped her backside during a meet-and-greet photo session in 2013. Late Friday, the judge threw the case out stating the defendant did not prove he lost his job due to Swift’s allegations. And the case itself is opening up plenty of discussion about groping and sexual assault.

On the third day of proceedings, the singer’s bodyguard, Greg Dent, and the photographer at the event both testified to having witnessed the incident.

In this courtroom sketch, Taylor Swift speaks from the witness stand during the trial on Aug. 10, in Denver. (Jeff Kandyba via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Taylor Swift speaks from the witness stand during the trial on Aug. 10, in Denver. (Jeff Kandyba via AP)

This lawsuit is only a small part of the saga: Mueller initially took Swift to court for defamation for publicly speaking about the matter. Swift, in turn, is currently countersuing Mueller, for damages of $1, for assault and battery — and as a means of calling greater attention to the issue of gender-based violence.

And, it seems from social media, that she’s doing just that. Not only have many of Swift’s celebrity friends aired their support but members of the general public have as well. 

These reactions follow Swift’s Thursday testimony in which she noted in federal court that Mueller’s actions were “intentional” and that he “stayed attached to my bare ass cheek as I lurched away from him.”

She told jurors, “I’m not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault, because it isn’t. I am being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions and not mine.”

And it’s no surprise that Swift’s frank and unapologetic stance regarding what she suffered as a result of her experience is causing such an outpouring of support.

Zoe Peterson, PhD, is the director of the Sexual Assault Research and Education Program and an associate professor of psychological science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She tells Yahoo Beauty that while she cannot speak to the specifics of the Taylor Swift case, it is nonetheless important to keep in mind that there “are a lot of commonly held myths about sexual assault, which essentially serve to deny the seriousness of the problem … [and] these myths promote the idea that widespread social change is not needed to address the problem because the problem is not widespread.”

Peterson explains that these myths range from the belief that sexual assault is actually a very rare occurrence to victim blaming that enforces the idea that the subject probably did something to deserve the assault to those that suggest that women commonly lie about assault.

“These myths likely stick around because they are comforting to many people,” Peterson says. “It is uncomfortable to face the idea that we and our loved ones are vulnerable to sexual assault. By undermining the seriousness of the problem, these myths allow us to feel less vulnerable, but they also reduce our motivation to put time and resources into addressing the problem of sexual assault.”

Which is exactly why it’s so important — and impactful — to see Swift take such a public, unwavering stance in speaking out against her own assault. Especially given how difficult it is for women to come forward about an assault and the kinds of public retaliation they stand to face as a result.

“When women come forward to talk publicly about their experiences of sexual assault, they do a great service by helping to challenge myths that suggest that sexual assault is a rare event. Unfortunately, women who talk publicly about sexual assault may be confronted with other types of assault myths — they may be blamed for the assault or accused of lying about the assault,” Peterson adds.

And so Swift, through her countersuit and public testimony, stands to really shift the narrative when it comes to this form of gender-based violence.

“Because celebrities often have tremendous social capital and are often implicitly trusted and respected, when they publicly discuss their own experiences of sexual assault, it may be slightly harder to undermine their claims with victim-blaming or accusations of lies then it would be to undermine the claims of non-celebrity claims,” Peterson says. “Even celebrities, though, are clearly not immune from having their claims of sexual assault undermined or dismissed.”

Or as one fan put it:

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