The one dollar court case

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Taylor Swift added a dollar to her multimillion dollar income on Aug. 14. But the single dollar was more of a symbolic victory than anything else, a way to bring attention to the larger issue of sexual assault. Taylor Swift is one of over 300,000 people who are assaulted every year, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). But unfortunately, 64% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Swift especially has been known to voice her support for women in similar situations, most notably for Kesha in 2016 in her case against Dr. Luke. As an already active voice in the discussion, Swift was praised by many for her actions.

But the responses were not all positive — and it’s worth noting that a personal dislike of Swift kept even some self-identified feminists from supporting her. Despite her status, she still received many hateful comments, showing that even celebrities are not immune to the hateful comments directed towards assault victims attempting to receive justice.

Most victims stay silent, and for many reasons. Out of every 1000 rapes that occur, only 57 lead to an arrest, and only six rapists out of every 1000 are ever incarcerated, according to the RAINN. Many of those that do report assaults find themselves at the face of accusations — comments that even Swift was not exempt from. And even those who choose to speak up simply to raise awareness often find their voices drowned out in the midst of the food videos and political news that fills our social media feeds.

It’s disheartening that it required a celebrity as magnanimous as Swift to draw attention to sexual assault, an issue that deserves more coverage. But that’s also the reason that Swift’s trial was so significant. Swift has always been a powerful figure, a sentiment that TIME magazine echoed on one of its November 2014 covers which featured the headline, “The Power of Taylor Swift.” She’s part of Forbes’ America’s Self-Made Women list and its Top 100 celebrities list. Her social media empire of 74 million Facebook page followers, 85 million Twitter followers and 102 million Instagram followers paint a picture of her perfect life.

With that many people watching, who could blame a celebrity for keeping their private lives under wraps? But when those like Swift do choose to speak, the impact is noticeable. Searches for her name on Google peaked between Aug 6 and 12, the days before and after the trial on Aug. 10. And while it’s disappointing that the common American’s sexual assault wouldn’t garner this much attention, Swift stepping fearlessly into the courtroom to defend herself helps to serve as steps towards awareness of all assaults — not just those that happen to celebrities.

Only two percent of reported rapes are false accusations, a number similar to other felonies across the country. But, unfortunately, sexual assault victims seem to be accused of lying more often than others. For fear of this, many men and women choose to remain silent about their sexual assaults. Swift’s victory in her case shows that maybe this trend is shifting. If someone as powerful as Swift shows that she won’t stand for injustice and inappropriate actions by others, she may inspire others to fight as well. An issue as striking and despicable as sexual assault can no longer stand in the darkness, and Swift’s case may very well be a large step in the right direction.

She didn’t ask for a large quantity of money, even though no amount of money can compensate for a sexual assault. Swift never even needed another dollar in her wallet. But she recognized that there was something else that others needed, and it was something she could give them — a way to bring the media’s attention to the pressing issue of sexual assault. The dollar Swift won is meaningless to most people (and certainly to Swift) in terms of money, but the significance of it is one that cannot be paralleled.

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Ilena Peng is a third year staff member and one of two editors-in-chief for El Estoque.