Why Taylor Swift’s groping allegations are so important

The INSIDER Summary:

• Taylor Swift alleges she was groped by a radio DJ in 2013.
• A now-public deposition transcript reveals she felt “violated.”
• Swift’s response is powerful because the experiences of women who are groped are often discounted.

Back in 2013, Taylor Swift alleges that former Denver radio DJ David “Jackson” Mueller groped her during a meet and greet. Now, Swift’s comments in a new deposition transcript reveal more details about the incident.

“Right as the moment came for us to pose for the photo, [Mueller] took his hand and put it up my dress and grabbed onto my arse cheek and no matter how much I scooted over it was still there […] it was completely intentional, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life,” Swift said in a now-public deposition transcript obtained by Billboard. “I remember being frantic, distressed, feeling violated in a way I had never experienced before […] for someone to violate that hospitality in that way, I was completely stunned.”

Mueller has denied these claims since they were made public, even alleging that it was his former boss Eddie Haskell who was the real person to violate Swift (a claim that Swift denies). He’s gone on to sue Swift for slander, and Swift countersued and asked for a jury trial for the incident.

As the he-said-she-said case continues to play out in court and in the press, it’s important to remember how powerful Swift’s reaction and response was in a climate where women’s stories about being groped are often discounted.

Karena Virginia gloria allred
Karena Virginia with her press conference with lawyer Gloria Allred. Getty Images/Jemal Countess

Recently, Karena Virginia, 45, came forward as one in a series of women to allege that the GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump behaved inappropriately towards her. After singling her out on the street (“look at this one!”), Virginia says Trump approached her, grabbed her arm, and brushed his hand against her breast. Virginia said he asked, “Don’t you know who I am?”

It was just the latest in a series of claims by women accusing Trump of inappropriate behaviour.

If true, these are all cases — including Virginia’s — that the US Department of Justice defines as sexual assault: “any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”

Still, some people didn’t think Virginia’s experience wasn’t that big of a deal. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told The Weekly Standard: “I don’t characterise that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch.” He wasn’t alone.

And writing for Refinery 29, author Judith Newman compared Virginia’s experience to a “paper cut”:

We have to remember that in order for women to be taken seriously when they are abused, we can’t constantly redefine victimhood to meaninglessness. It’s sort of like an accident that makes you run to the ER. We can debate about the seriousness of various ills and injuries, but we all know the difference between a severed leg and a paper cut. Don’t waste your time with the paper cut. Slap on a Band-Aid and move on.

Newman’s opinion piece addressed the troublesome hierarchy of victimhood: Were you “really, really” raped, or just sort of raped? Were you sexually assaulted, or did some guy just rub his hands against your breast? 

These are questions women face everyday when they feel violated and come forward. How bad was it really, sweetie? Wasn’t he just being friendly?

Over the weekend, a woman named Ariana Lenarsky live-tweeted an experience where she said she was grabbed by a man on her flight after he had tried to kiss a different woman without her consent. When police took the women’s statements after the plane had landed, Lenarsky says she was told they would “give him a talking to” and that “it’s not the crime of the century.”

This is all to say that discounting these kinds of crimes is nothing new, which is why it’s such a strong message for a superstar like Swift to take a stand. She described plainly what she says happened (“[Mueller] took his hand and put it up my dress and grabbed onto my arse cheek”) and used strong language to describe how she felt (“frantic, distressed, […] violated”).

It’s an important reminder that these crimes are not mere “paper cuts.” Violating someone’s body and personal space isn’t something that women should feel they need to brush off. In fact, not speaking up can normalize this type of rape culture behaviour.

Groping is sexual assault and the victims deserve to be heard.

Swift’s suit states that if she were to win the case against Mueller, she will donate any monetary compensation to charities that protect women from sexual assault.

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