I am simply sick over the news that the sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French former head of the IMF, have been dropped. Judge Michael Obus granted a motion to dismiss today based on the argument that the plaintiff, Nafissatou Diallo – a maid at the Sofitel in New York City – is a liar. No one involved in the case disputes that a sexual encounter took place in DSK’s hotel suite on May 14, and as Jezebel notes, many pundits concede that at the very least he is “guilty but not that guilty.” There is a general sense that while this woman – a woman of color, a foreigner, a servant - was somehow taken advantage of, this man – who hoped to be the next President of France – couldn’t possibly be a rapist.
According to the LA Times, the basic argument in the motion was that “prosecutors, who once considered the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, a reliable witness, could no longer believe her because of lies told to investigators since the alleged crime May 14.” The prosecution suggested that Diallo “gave three differing versions of her actions immediately after the alleged attack,” adding, “Not only does this impair her reliability as a witness, but these varying accounts also make it difficult to ascertain what actually occurred in the critical time frame…. We have no confidence that the complainant would tell the truth on this issue if she were called as a witness at trial.”
I don’t understand. I really don’t understand how it’s possible that the Manhattan DA’s office can have turned against the innocent party. According to MSNBC, “Early in the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, prosecutors held out his accuser as its strongest point. Her account was compelling and unwavering, complete with very powerful details and corroborated by a medical exam, they said.” MSNBC notes that protesters outside the courtroom today held signs saying, “Put the rapist on trial — not the victim.” My sentiments exactly.
In a post from earlier this month on Jezebel, Anna North discusses the public’s need to try to rationalize sexual assault, to explain away the behavior of an attacker by essentially saying, she must have at least acquiesced, and therefore it’s not rape. For example, in The Atlantic, Stuart Taylor Jr. wrote:
I speculate that something neither violent nor completely consensual happened, such as an aggressive attempt at seduction to which she consented for fear of angering a wealthy hotel guest. If so, Strauss-Kahn’s conduct was deplorable—but was not the forcible sexual assault with which he has been charged.
That’s such an obvious contradiction, I can’t believe Taylor can’t see it. The likelihood is that he can see it, and he just doesn’t care. Coercion isn’t rape, I guess.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, or getting away from the real point here, which is that the DA’s office has put Diallo’s character on trial and has allowed Strauss-Kahn to get away without one. This story arc is nothing new; the credibility of the 11-year-old girl who was gang raped in Texas was taken into account when news of her ordeal broke. The burden of proof in rape cases is always on the victim. Why would anyone lie about being raped? I’m not saying it hasn’t ever happened, but I have to believe that 9/10 an accuser is telling the truth.
MSNBC reports that “efforts to shed light on what transpired in Strauss-Kahn’s luxury suite May 14 are bound to continue in civil court, where Diallo has sued Strauss-Kahn.” Accordingly, it has been intimated that Diallo is looking only to profit off this rape charge. MSNBC writes, “Diallo had a recorded phone conversation, with a jailed man in her life, in which the potential for financial recovery from Strauss-Kahn was mentioned.” However, Diallo has also said no one can “buy” her. The complications don’t end there, though. Per MSNBC, “Strauss-Kahn’s semen was found on [Diallo's] uniform dress, his DNA was identified on pantyhose and underwear she was wearing, and a gynecological exam found an area of redness” on Diallo, but that’s not enough evidence to prove an assault occurred. As for Diallo, she acknowledges that she fabricated – or at least changed some details in – a story about previously having been gang-raped in Guinea, her native country.
In regards to the alleged lies Diallo has told, Slate’s William Saletan refutes them point by point in an incredible post from this morning. About the phone call Diallo made to her jailed friend, for example, he writes:
1) Diallo received two calls but didn’t place any, 2) she never brought up Strauss-Kahn’s wealth as lawsuit bounty, 3) her friend did so, but she told him to stop, 4) she mentioned Strauss-Kahn’s wealth and power only in the context of fearing him, and 5) when she said, “I know what I’m doing,” she was talking about her safety, not about legal strategy. This fits the account Diallo previously gave to ABC News.
Saletan urges the DA’s office to release original recordings of phone calls and transcripts of interviews; he calls for all the facts to be made clear in this case. Something, oddly enough, that might have happened had this case gone to trial.