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Taylor Swift is one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world: The pop star has an estimated net worth of $280 million. But on Monday she was awarded a single dollar by the jury in her suit against a man who groped her — a sum more precious, especially to victims of sexual assault, than her pile of millions.

Four years ago, Ms. Swift took a routine meet-and-greet picture with a Denver radio host named David Mueller. As he posed with Ms. Swift, he reached up the back of her skirt and grabbed her.

When the radio station was alerted to the incident by Ms. Swift’s team, it severed ties with the radio host. An enterprising Mr. Mueller saw an opportunity, and in 2015 he sued Ms. Swift for a false accusation for up to $3 million in damages. His legal strategy was a well-worn and successful one: assert his innocence and make the jury doubt the veracity of the victim.

Bad move. Mr. Mueller was up against a far shrewder businessperson, who countersued for just one dollar. In doing so, she removed any suspicion of personal gain, allowing her, as she put it in her suit, to be “an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts.”

The pop star lived up to that promise during her trial. When Mr. Mueller’s lawyers suggested she didn’t behave like a victim would by not halting the meet-and-greet immediately, she refused to be cowed: “Your client could have taken a normal photo with me.”

When they suggested she should’ve been more critical of her bodyguard for not intervening, she did not allow her employee to be blamed for her assault: “I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass.”

When the photo of Ms. Swift and Mr. Mueller was used as evidence — nothing visibly inappropriate was happening in the photograph, ergo nothing inappropriate happened — Ms. Swift was unwavering: “This is a photo of him with his hand up my skirt — with his hand on my ass. You can ask me a million questions — I’m never going to say anything different. I never have said anything different.”

These were words of a woman who is aware that she deserves justice. They were laced with the power that comes from knowing she holds greater fiscal and cultural capital than anyone else in the courtroom with her. She spoke to that advantage in her statement following the verdict: “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. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”

For all of this, women, including many victims of sexual assault, praised her widely.

They also rightly pointed out that most sexual assault victims do not receive public support or praise for exposing their assailants. They do, however, experience similar lines of argument from defense attorneys in the courtroom.

Only 13 out of every 1,000 incidents of rape get referred to a prosecutor. Those 13 go on to find that juries often find victims culpable in their own assaults. Defense cases typically rest on proving that a woman did not behave the way a victim would or should after an assault, despite the fact that all people respond to trauma differently. Cases often rest on proving that women didn’t say “no,” or that they were too drunk to be allowed to call themselves victims of assault.

By asking for a “single symbolic dollar, the value of which is immeasurable to all women in this situation,” as her lawyer Douglas Baldridge told the jury, she removed the most malicious line of defense — that women only cry assault for attention or financial gain. Of course, those who do seek monetary restitution for physical and psychological damage caused by the crime they endure rarely have access to a similar financial cushion.

Taylor Swift is an extraordinary talent, but her experience is, unfortunately, entirely ordinary. Most women encounter harassment from a stranger at some time in their life, and one in six of all American women will survive rape or attempted rape in their lives. In the remote case that they make it to a trial like Ms. Swift, what’s truly valuable is not the dollars they can get from their assailants. It’s justice.


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