Taylor Swift’s victory in the sexual assault law suit against a former radio DJ who groped her was a victory for human respect and specifically courtesy towards women.
The Federal Court in Denver, USA found David Mueller, a former radio DJ guilty of sexual assault (for fondling her buttocks during a meet-and-greet session before one of Swift’s concerts in 2013).
A complaint was lodged with the DJ’s radio station after the incident and he lost his job. He then launched a $3 million law suit against Swift in 2015, arguing that she had led to his sacking. He also sued a radio consultant and Swift’s mother. All of those claims were thrown out of Court.
Interestingly, it was only in defence of the claim made against her that Swift brought her own counter-suit. What was most interesting was that she deliberately chose to ask for a nominal $1 in damages, which she succeeded. In practical terms, this means that Taylor Swift paid for her own lawyer’s fees, which would have been substantial. And, in a kind gesture of generosity, Swift intends to make donations to multiple organisations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves. Swift said after the Court victory, “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.” She went on to say, “My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard”, which was a reference to sexual assault victims.
What’s the implication of this Decision in the USA Court for us in Australia?
Matching with Australian community morals, the Decision gives recognition to the basic human right of respect, particularly for women in the context of sexuality and sexual objectation. Then, the actions of the former DJ would fall foul of criminal laws in Australia. In Queensland, for example, it is illegal to touch someone in that manner without their consent or without some other reasonable excuse.
Did you know that in Australia such conduct would also give rise to a financial penalty under our civil law? The technical classification of this area of the law is called “tort” and applies to all forms of assault, including conduct of the type that was the subject of the Taylor Swift Court case. As a matter of interest (which is not widely known by the public), State Government laws have limited the financial entitlement for compensation in most forms of assault. However, for the assault with a sexual element or connotation, those limitations imposed by State Government law, on the amount of compensation payable to the victim, do not apply. This is very important feature to highlight, because it’s a type of recognition of the highly traumatising effect that may result from this type of assault. Not to say that other forms of assault are not traumatic, yet this is the way that our law-makers have recognised forms of sexual assault and abuse as a category in which the limits or restrictions on financial entitlement of the victim do not apply.
MBA Lawyers has long-standing association with the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence (http://www.stopsexualviolence.com). The amazing work of the Counsellors and other staff at this organisation, which often goes unheralded, is to be greatly encouraged and the decision of the Denver Court is also applauded, together with the strength of conviction of Taylor Swift.