"I HAD TO LEARN HOW TO FIGHT FOR MYSELF" : TWO SURVIVORS' RESPONSE TO KESHA'S 'PRAYING'
There is no doubt that Kesha’s new song “Praying” is making movements in the world of pop culture, diverging from stereotypical storylines of pop lyrics and spearheading a more meaningful era of reflective and personal music. By opening up about a tough experience, Kesha is able to shed light on the importance of recognizing inner strength and putting personal healing before hatred inflicted by others. We wanted to hear about what survivors thought of Kesha’s new music - is the song a good reflection of the strength and resiliency of survivors, or does it attempt to set an unfair standard for what the emotions of a survivor should be? I interviewed 2 survivors who offered unique perspectives about the song.
I started out by asking the survivor I interviewed to describe the song in three adjectives; I wanted to get a glimpse of what her first impressions of the song were. She responded with the words “Powerful. Understanding. Overcoming,” adjectives conveying a feeling of strength knowing that Kesha’s song effectively uses a global media platform to start conversations spreading awareness about assault. While topics like assault are usually silenced in society due to the stigma surrounding the topic, this survivor told me that she is “pleasantly surprised that a song about sexual assault…became so popular and highly praised.” She says that it “[makes her] feel somewhat understood. Kesha sings about...why it’s so difficult to move on after sexual assault but highlights the importance of doing so.” By conveying the difficulty in recovering after an emotionally toiling experience through phrases like “I had to learn how to fight for myself” and “you brought the flames and you put me through hell,” Kesha is able to uncover at least a portion of the emotional pain and suffering survivors must endure to the public eye. To her, Kesha is breaking barriers in pop culture by shining a light on issues like assault and societal inequalities, opening up the possibility for conversations where individuals are asking the right kind of questions that she says are “along the lines of ‘how can I help?’ rather than ‘are you sure that’s what happened?’” Kesha’s own statement, published on the Lenny Letter website, revealed that the purpose of writing this song was to teach individuals that “if someone has wronged you, get rid of that hate because it will create more negativity.” While the survivor I interviewed discusses that it is never possible to fully forgive a rapist or “get rid of that hate” as Kesha mentions, she tells us that she hopes her offenders have changed from their past actions and will never assault anyone again. “I’ll always harbor some bit of hatred for the men that’ve assaulted me,” she says. “I do hope they’re praying and I hope their souls are changing but not because I’ve forgiven them and am rooting for their personal growth, but because I hope they feel remorseful, learn from their mistake, and never assault anyone else.”
Another survivor I interviewed offers a different perspective after listening to the song. While acknowledging that our society is “beginning to see more narratives of survivors,” she thinks Kesha’s song is not the best reflection of the type of narrative needed to destigmatize assault and rape. She mentions that “we need to see more narratives of survivors in the public eye because without it we get a warped viewpoint of what constitutes a survivor and how they feel…we are left with two options…we are either pitied as a victim or seen as strong, a survivor.” This dichotomy is dangerous; it creates a homogenous image of survivors as individuals who must transition from a period of healing to that of strength and resiliency, virtually disregarding the lingering feelings of anger survivors experience after assault. “I was struck with how much is put on us survivors and how much we need to ‘act right’ in the public eye,” she says. “We must act like a ‘proper survivor.’ We should be strong, resilient, and have positively grown from our experience. But what if it doesn’t work like that...in a world where we see low conviction rates of abusers of course we are going to be mad.” She tells me that creating outlets for survivors to express their emotions after assault “in a healthy way such as art” is a preferable alternative to engaging in ‘empowerment’ discourse that may impose a certain societal standard regarding how survivors should feel. “[We need] more representation of all survivors and our vast stories. It becomes problematic if the only survivors getting representation are…white, able bodied individuals, and can be quite isolating.”
We thank these survivors for sharing their valuable opinions and thoughts regarding this song.