Taylor Swift Wins Groping Suit Against Ex-Radio Host

Aug 15, 2017
Originally published on August 15, 2017 7:00 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A jury's ruling in favor of Taylor Swift is resonating beyond a Denver courthouse. The pop superstar prevailed over a local disc jockey who she says slipped his hand under her skirt and groped her. He had claimed that she was lying and that she ruined his career. The jury of six women and two men awarded Swift what she asked for, one symbolic dollar. NPR's Leila Fadel was at the courthouse and reports that for some, this case was worth much more.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Every day for a week, Arianna Baity stood in line with her mom to see Taylor Swift. But this wasn't for a concert. It was because, like Swift, the 20-year-old was assaulted. And she wanted to be there for her idol at a Denver courthouse.

ARIANNA BAITY: I was really, really happy for her because I've been through that. And they put her through, like, the same thing, back and forth, of being like, it's your fault.

FADEL: But, she says, Swift stood strong.

BAITY: And I just like that she stood up and she was like, it is not my fault that your client touched me inappropriately. It's not my fault. None of this is my fault. It's his fault.

FADEL: And on Monday afternoon, a jury ruled in favor of Swift, who countersued when DJ David Mueller says she lied when she accused him of groping her behind in 2013, when she was 23 and he was 51. Mueller was suing Swift, her mother and one of her managers saying he was falsely accused and lost his job over it.

But the jury ruled against Mueller, despite his lawyer asking why his client would grope a superstar while standing next to his girlfriend and getting his picture taken. After the ruling, Swift's lawyer, Douglas Baldridge, said it was in favor of no means no and a message that women will not be re-victimized by their aggressors in court.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DOUGLAS BALDRIDGE: I think it is a new day because someone with the guts and the courage to stand up with absolutely no upside in doing so - that being Taylor Swift - has told everyone this is it. The line's drawn.

FADEL: Swift has become an almost accidental poster child for advocates of survivors of sexual assault. Now, Taylor Swift is not known as a shrinking violet in the music industry. She's known for her business savvy and airs her heartbreak, tales of bouncing back and feuds in the lyrics of her song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. I shake it off, I shake it off.

FADEL: And advocates for victims of sexual assault, as well as victims themselves, took note of her for the same assertive manner in court last week, when she was cross-examined. She was unapologetic and refused to be shamed. And that's important, they say, because so often victims are afraid to come forward and are further shamed in courtrooms or by the people they report to.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center says two-thirds of assaults still go unreported to police. Monika Johnson Hostler heads the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and she says Swift's case is shifting the conversation on sexual assault in the right direction among young people - people who listen to Taylor Swift.

MONIKA JOHNSON HOSTLER: This demographic has the ability to change the way that rape is perpetuated in our society by saying, oh, it isn't her fault. And she wasn't suing for a million dollars, so she wasn't, you know, digging for money or trying to ruin somebody famous.

FADEL: And that's why it's so important, she says. Swift's already famous. She doesn't need money. She just wanted to hold her victimizer accountable. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAXON SHORE'S "AMBER, EMBER, GLOW (NORMAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.