Several weeks ago, record producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, man behind hits by singers like Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, and Avril Lavigne, among dozens of others, was hit with a lawsuit by another one of his artists, Kesha. She claims Luke was controlling, had drugged and sexually assaulted her during their professional time together.Yesterday, Jian Ghomeshi found himself in a similar situation as he announced he was fired by CBC because of his “controversial sex life.” It was soon revealed that several women accused him of attacking them while on dates with him.
Despite the similarities of the two situations, both successful men in their respective fields of entertainment, my initial thoughts toward both were very different. I presumed Luke was guilty and Jian was unfairly targeted.
Dr. Luke was accused by a pop star in a public way with very up-front accusations. He responded with a lawsuit of his own accusing Kesha of extortion and trying to get out of her contract. Jian was fired from his job and almost immediately released a statement on Facebook explaining his side of the story.
Both have received a lot of attention but Jian’s in particular has been a top story, due to his prominence in Canadian media. He’s the most recognizable radio personality in the country, one of the most popular CBC personnel, and his radio show Q is internationally-known.
As information about his situation continued to surface, it was looking more damning. The key piece being that CBC outright fired him, something that probably wouldn’t have happened without solid evidence to support the decision. Jian responded with a $50+ million lawsuit.
Despite the growing evidence, there is increasing and hardening support both for and against Jian from people who very likely don’t know any more about the situation that I do.
How can so many people form such a strong opinion on a situation that can differ as much as it does from one person to the next using the same information? How can someone be either guilty or innocent depending on who you ask?
Those were questions that came to mind when I tried to come to my own conclusion after reading more about the story earlier today – before I stopped myself. I can’t come to a conclusion. Neither can anyone else who isn’t directly involved.
Regardless of what the accusations are, is it fair to come to either conclusion using preconceptions based on what we know about Jian prior to this story breaking out?
Some see him as arrogant, pompous, or pretentious and therefore already think of him negatively. Others see him as accomplished, successful, and a positive contributor of Canadian culture to Canadians and the world, or they simply like his show. To them, he’s a good guy. These characteristics have little, if anything, to do with whether he’s guilty or not.
Additionally, those who don’t really know much about him have their minds made up as well. Because Jian is a man in a presumed position of power, he’s already guilty. Alternatively, to some, this position of power makes him more vulnerable to false accusations by women out for revenge. Therefore, he’s innocent.
Statistically speaking, using those ideas, he is more likely to be guilty. There are very few confirmed cases of a woman falsely accusing a man of sexual assault – stats estimate anywhere from 1% to 8% of reported cases, most tend to lean lower. So it can happen, but it’s very unlikely, no matter how much people want to hold onto that as defence to discredit feminism and the idea that ‘rape culture’ exists.In fact, it was that thought, along with my awareness of his arrogance that made me assume Dr. Luke was guilty. Kesha, as a public figure, has a lot more to lose than gain if her accusations are false – and not just for her but for all women.
Though, to take a step back from this, I realized my error of using Kesha’s status and credibility as support for her claims, as if they made her allegations more valid than someone who wasn’t as popular or successful. If Kesha has nothing to lose, would her accusation be any less serious and in need of investigation or empathy?
The status of the accuser, and the status of the accused are external factors that can cloud perspective when there is only one truth. But does the truth even really matter? It all comes down to who has the best defence and unfortunately, that defence often includes bringing in these external characteristics.
For a brief moment, I allowed classic PR, Jian’s initial statement, to dupe me into prematurely reaching a conclusion that I now know was too quick. I don’t necessarily think he or Dr. Luke are innocent but I also won’t put myself on the side of guilty either. For situations like this, it isn’t about taking sides as much as it is about being empathetic about what all sides are going through and remembering that there are three sides to every story. Three perspectives. The accuser, the accused, and the truth.