Swift trial shines light on un­re­ported out­rage

Albuquerque Journal - - NATION - BY COLLEEN SLEVIN

DEN­VER — Tay­lor Swift’s al­le­ga­tion that a for­mer morn­ing ra­dio host reached un­der her skirt and grabbed her back­side dur­ing a photo op is bring­ing at­ten­tion to a com­mon but largely hid­den out­rage for many women, one that few re­port.

A 2014 sur­vey found nearly 1 in 4 women in the United States had been groped or brushed up against in a pub­lic place by a stranger at least once.

But many never talked about it, let alone went to the po­lice. A 2015 sur­vey of more than 16,000 peo­ple glob­ally found more than half of the re­spon­dents out­side the U.S. had been fon­dled or groped.

The then-girl­friend of for­mer DJ David Mueller, who was stand­ing with Mueller and Swift when the singer says he groped her, even tes­ti­fied that a co-worker had grabbed her back­side at an­other con­cert.

Mueller de­nies grop­ing Swift and sued the singer, say­ing he was fired be­cause of her false al­le­ga­tion.

Late Fri­day, just as clos­ing ar­gu­ments were set to be­gin, the judge threw out Mueller’s claims against Swift — say­ing af­ter he’d heard all of the ev­i­dence that Mueller could not prove Swift had any­thing to do with his los­ing his job. U.S. District Judge Wil­liam Mar­tinez also said there was no in­di­ca­tion that Swift had made up her story.

Even be­fore that rul­ing, women around the world, not all of them fans of Swift’s mu­sic, had been cheer­ing the pop su­per­star for con­fronting the is­sue in fed­eral court and keep­ing an un­flinch­ing at­ti­tude on the wit­ness stand.

On so­cial me­dia, some are us­ing a teal rib­bon that rep­re­sents op­po­si­tion to sex­ual vi­o­lence and prais­ing Swift as an ex­am­ple for other women.

Paige Bras­ing­ton, 21, a Swift fan from The Wood­lands, Texas, said she was groped on pub­lic trans­porta­tion while study­ing abroad and was glad Swift was giv­ing at­ten­tion to the is­sue with the same hon­esty she brings to her mu­sic.

The Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia stu­dent was stunned the first time it hap­pened to her on a crowded tram in Bu­dapest, think­ing there must have been an ob­ject pressed against her. Af­ter she reached down, she found a man’s hand on her butt. He ex­ited at the next stop. When she told a male friend, he asked if she had en­joyed it.

“The most im­por­tant thing about this trial is it gets peo­ple talk­ing about this is­sue,” Bras­ing­ton said. “It forces them to con­front that it is wrong and should never hap­pen.”

Holly Kearl, founder and di­rec­tor of Stop Street Ha­rass­ment, which com­mis­sioned the 2014 U.S. sur­vey, said women who speak out face not be­ing be­lieved or be­ing blamed for grop­ing, some­thing many women have re­ported in shar­ing their sto­ries on the group’s web­site.

Some­times they do not know their rights or what the law says, or lack the time or en­ergy to re­port it. How­ever, shar­ing those sto­ries on­line, es­pe­cially through video, is help­ing show vic­tims it is not un­com­mon and proves to oth­ers it is a prob­lem, she said.

Kearl was stand­ing out­side a house af­ter leav­ing a party in col­lege when a group of men ran by and one of them grabbed her crotch.

Even though she was a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ad­vo­cate and well-versed in women’s is­sues, Kearl said she froze as the men left laugh­ing, and she never re­ported it.

“It’s just some­thing that hap­pens in our so­ci­ety, and if we don’t chal­lenge it, it’s go­ing to keep hap­pen­ing,” she said.

Swift did not go to the po­lice ei­ther. Her mother, An­drea Swift, tes­ti­fied they had hoped to keep the mat­ter pri­vate and did not want it to de­fine the singer’s life.

As a star, Swift had an­other way to take ac­tion. An­drea Swift and other mem­bers of Swift’s team pushed for Mueller to be fired, which led to his law­suit against Swift and her rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Mueller’s ex-girl­friend, Shan­non Melcher, tes­ti­fied Fri­day that she saw noth­ing hap­pen dur­ing the brief en­counter at the photo ses­sion at a Den­ver arena in 2013 be­fore a Swift per­for­mance.

Swift and her le­gal team have point­edly framed what Mueller al­legedly did to her as a sex­ual as­sault, not “in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing” as Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFar­land, refers to it.

Even though she’s not a fan of Swift’s mu­sic, Sa­maria Alli, 21, lined up for a spot in­side fed­eral court to show to her sup­port for Swift’s stand. Alli, a mu­si­cian, said women of­ten are ha­rassed in her male­dom­i­nated field, then face a back­lash for com­plain­ing about it.

“I just want to see how this plays out for the sake of women any­where,” she said.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sa­maria Alli talks about the civil trial for pop singer Tay­lor Swift, Thurs­day.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Work­ers in an of­fice build­ing taped up a mes­sage to pop singer Tay­lor Swift be­fore the start of the civil trial Fri­day.

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