So many classics from the victim-blaming handbook couldn’t be deployed against Taylor Swift, and a Colorado jury decided this week that the singer was indeed assaulted by former Denver and Kansas City DJ David Mueller when he reached under her skirt during a photo op four years ago.
What juror would have believed she was just looking for a payday, even if she hadn’t sought only a symbolic $1 in damages?
Nor would the usual pretzel logic that she was in desperate need of attention, poor thing — or in it for the “glory” of victimhood, as George Will once said of women who report being raped — have been likely to work, even if she hadn’t initially tried to keep the matter private.
And then, unlike the many sexually assaulted women who after coming forward are accused of having made the whole thing up, Swift had a witness, her former bodyguard, Greg Dent. On cross-examination, Swift said that though Dent did see Mueller “lift my skirt,” someone would have had to have been right underneath her to have actually seen him holding on to her bare derriere — “and we didn’t have anyone positioned there.”
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Mueller “stayed attached to my bare … cheek as I lurched away from him,” Swift said on the stand. “It was a definite grab. A very long grab.”
Stripped of those sexual assault trial basics, Mueller’s attorney was left to argue that his client couldn’t have grabbed the singer because he would have to have been delusional to think he could get away with molesting a celebrity in the company of that very large bodyguard. (Agreed. And?)
The attorney for Mueller, who was also bought out of his contract at KRBZ in Kansas City, did trot out one of the old standards when he tried to convince the jury that because Swift looked like nothing had happened after the alleged assault, then nothing could have happened. (She said she was stunned and on autopilot, even thanking her groper for coming, and didn’t end the photo op because she didn’t want to disappoint her fans.) But attorney Gabriel McFarland waved around the post-grab photo of Swift, Mueller and his then-girlfriend: “Ask yourself, ‘Is that the face of a person who just had a strange man grab her butt?’ ”
After five hours, the jury of six women and two men decided yeah, it was.
Mueller actually brought the whole thing on himself three times over: He miscalculated a second time in suing Swift, for supposedly ruining his career, before she took any legal action against him. And maybe the cherry on the whole hubris sundae was suing her mom for doing what moms do and calling the station where Mueller had worked to report him.
Swift knows very well that most women would never have been able to pursue a case like this even if they were willing to. For one thing, few could afford, as she said in a statement after winning the countersuit, to “shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.”
She hopes to do something about that by “making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”
That is what women who come forward do have to do, even now. But Mueller’s attorney clearly did not know who he was dealing with when he asked the 27-year-old star in court how she felt about what had happened to the out-of-work DJ as a result of her allegations.
She didn’t bite, but offered what was really the crucial closing argument of this case and so many others: “I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault,” she told him. “Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions, not mine.”