Taylor Swift has spoken out for the first time about her court case against a former radio DJ who sexually assaulted her during a photo opp.
She was named as one of the “silence breakers” in TIME‘s Person of the Year, alongside Ashely Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwua and Isabel Pascual, who, along with “those hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.”
In 2013, Swift took a photo with former Colorado radio DJ David Mueller, who Swift says reached under her skirt and grabber her. She complained to the radio station, and Mueller was fired, leading him to sue Swift for defamation.
She famously countersued for $1 – a symbolic amount she says Mueller still hasn’t paid her – and won.
“At the time, I was headlining a major arena tour and there were a number of people in the room that saw this plus a photo of it happening,” she told TIME. “I figured that if he would be brazen enough to assault me under these risky circumstances and high stakes, imagine what he might do to a vulnerable, young artist if given the chance. It was important to report the incident to his radio station because I felt like they needed to know.”
During her testimony, she famously and courageously held her ground against Mueller’s attorney, telling him: “I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. 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.”
Swift said that when she testified, she’d already “had to watch this man’s attorney bully, badger and harass my team including my mother over inane details and ridiculous minutiae, accusing them, and me, of lying. My mom was so upset after her cross-examination, she was physically too ill to come to court the day I was on the stand. I was angry. In that moment, I decided to forego any courtroom formalities and just answer the questions the way it happened. This man hadn’t considered any formalities when he assaulted me, and his lawyer didn’t hold back on my mom—why should I be polite? I’m told it was the most amount of times the word “ass” has ever been said in Colorado Federal Court.”
She said that speaking to Kesha, who had also been through “the demoralising court process”, helped her get through it, and had some powerful advice for anyone finding themselves in a similar situation.
“I would tell people who find themselves in this situation that there is a great deal of blame placed on the victims in cases of sexual harassment and assault,” she said. “You could be blamed for the fact that it happened, for reporting it and blamed for how you reacted. You might be made to feel like you’re overreacting, because society has made this stuff seem so casual. My advice is that you not blame yourself and do not accept the blame others will try to place on you. You should not be blamed for waiting 15 minutes or 15 days or 15 years to report sexual assault or harassment, or for the outcome of what happens to a person after he or she makes the choice to sexually harass or assault you.”