This past Wednesday, March 23, the Office of Multicultural Student Life and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Services hosted a discussion regarding recent headlines involving pop singer Kesha.
The forum was held in the Multicultural Student Lounge as part of the two offices’ “What in the World?” current event discussion series. Each month, the series features a discussion highlighting relevant topics, sometimes pertaining to the special recognition that each month brings..
“The Kesha Issue” event highlighted Women’s History Month.
Patrick Nason, a second-year social work student who works in the Office of Multicultural Student Life, was a co-facilitator at the event.
“It’s not really a lecture, it’s more of a discussion based [sic]. We’ll present a little bit of information, we have a couple handouts today, people will kind of look it over, and then we try to stimulate a discussion on topics that people don’t really want to talk about,” Nason explained.
According to Nason, this is the fifth or sixth event of its kind. For him, the importance of the event is bringing awareness to harder topics.
“We try to bring it [the issues from] around the world and throughout the United States, and I feel like people can learn a lot of stuff from this,” Nason added. “I think this is important because no one wants to talk about it.”
The main subject of the discussion was pop singer Kesha, who has been at the forefront of national attention as part of a court battle between herself and Sony producer Dr. Luke. Kesha alleges that Dr. Luke sexually assaulted her, among other things, and she is actively trying to find a way out of the contract that requires her to work with him.
Dr. Luke denies the allegations.
The hashtag #FreeKesha has been trending internationally on social media as a way for Kesha’s fans to voice support. Freekesha.com has amassed hundreds of thousands of views, videos and images of protest rallies have spread around the internet and virtual petitions to encourage those in power to release Kesha from her contract have a myriad of signatures. Celebrities have also come forward, publicly voicing their support and even giving her money to pay for legal fees.
Despite the overwhelming support, Justice Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha’s injunction request to be released from her contract in February, citing “no showing of irreparable harm.”
The effects of this decision have sparked conversations about sexual assault nationwide, including the Kesha Issue discussion at the University of Maine.
Arianna Sessoms, the graduate assistant program educator for the Office of Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention at UMaine, believes that appropriate forums for discussion on the topic are crucial to ending the issue of sexual assault.
“The Kesha issue is important, in my opinion, because when issues of sexual assault and/or domestic or dating violence appear in the media, there seems to be a lot of misinformation spread, as well as victim-blaming and slut-shaming, especially when the victim reports the abuse. We can begin changing these views in our society by educating our local community and encouraging the importance of supporting victims and survivors of sexual abuse on campus,” Sessoms said in an email.
According to Sessoms, discussions at the community level will create a ripple effect to help aid the end to rape culture at other institutions, in society and around the world.
“Violence thrives in silence,” Sessoms added. “Therefore discussing these issues in a public forum and really listening to one another will help us all become more knowledgeable and compassionate individuals and activists for social change.”
If a student at UMaine has been or is currently being victimized by sexual assault, stalking, domestic or dating violence, sexual harassment or gender discrimination, there are resources available to them to help them heal, receive justice and prevent the issue further.
Liz Lavoie, the Deputy Title IX Coordinator at UMaine, extends assistance to students who are or have been reportedly affected by one or many of the above issues. She can meet with those students, listen to them and provide them with additional resources, including the UMaine Police Department, the Office of Equal Opportunity, the Office of Community Standards, Rights and Responsibilities, the Counseling Center, Cutler Health Center, local Rape Response Services and Spruce Run Womancare Alliance. Lavoie also works with students to make additional accommodations on a campus-wide level, such as a new room assignment if the student lives on campus, or rearranging a class schedule, to help the victim feel safe.
UMaine has a zero-tolerance violence policy.
“We have extremely hard-working and passionate people at our university working day and night to assure that every student here has an equal opportunity to receive an education as well as a safe and enjoyable college experience,” Sessoms said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced a sexual assault or dating violence, the Counseling Center may be contacted at (207) 581-1392 during business hours, or by calling (207) 581-4040 and asking for the counselor on call 24 hours a day.
The Deputy Title IX Coordinator may be reached at (207) 581-1406, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.