Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift's Priceless $1 Victory

How the superstar musician struck a real blow for the voiceless – and celebrities – by winning a symbolic $1 award in her groping case

The civil jury that found a now-former Denver disc jockey groped Taylor Swift during a 2013 backstage photo session awarded her $1 in damages.

But her victory proved priceless.

The superstar musician bolstered her stature as a feminist battler by fighting on behalf of "those whose voices should also be heard," as she put it after Monday's verdict in Denver federal court.

She also struck a blow for celebrities who, for all their privilege, can be vulnerable to segments of the population that confuse public lives with a sense of public ownership.

Swift could have left her high-priced lawyers to defend her against David Mueller, whose lawsuit blamed the singer for his firing after she accused him of lifting her skirt and grabbing her buttock. He contended he touched her rib cage and may have brushed against her skirt.

But she countersued and testified. Reports indicate the 27-year-old Swift was unshakable on the stand, declaring herself, in blunt terms, the victim of a “very long grab.” While she sought only a symbolic $1 in damages, Swift vowed after her legal victory to donate to “multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."

The court proceedings weren't televised, making the main visual accompanying the widely covered story the TMZ-obtained photo of a smiling Mueller and his then-girlfriend flanking Swift at the pre-concert meet-and-greet. The picture suggests, at best, inappropriate placement of Mueller’s hand and, at worst, a blatant assault.

The media-savvy Swift, who commands more than 100 million Instagram followers, likely knew going in that that image would dominate news reports and social media posts. 

But she chose to push ahead, putting substance to the image she's forged as strong young woman in charge of of her own destiny — a powerhouse unafraid to take any stage, no matter how uncomfortable.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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