Tag Archives: dominique strauss-kahn

Why is the DSK-case not going to trial?

Just a quick update on one of the most outrageous rape-cases in the last couple of years: No one’s talking about it anymore. Sure, some news sources diligently write about the latest updates, but overall the case has diminished from the public eye, especially in Europe. You have to read Le Monde, and read it closely, in order to hear anything about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is still forced to stay in the U.S., and Nafissatou Diallo, his alleged victim. The disinterest can easily be explained: The debate on whether or not the case should go to trial has been going on for months, without proper results, and no one really believes anymore that it will happen eventually. The shaming of Diallo and the destruction of her credibility has been successful; she is at best a liar, and at worst a criminal, but certainly not a victim. End of story.

Or not? To those who have followed the developments more closely, the story is not quite so clear-cut. Yes, she has lied about her past and she may have made incriminating statements, but the language barrier has proven to be an obstacle, that needs to be taken into consideration. And, of course, none of this proves that she lied about things this time.

Therefore it seems necessary to simply focus on the evidence and the facts of the event itself. Fact is, that a sexual act has been performed, which neither of the two parties denies. Consensual or not, that is the question, a question that can only be answered by the two persons involved (who stick to contradictory accounts), and medical evidence, should there be any, proving whether or not physical force has been utilized.

In Diallo’s case this evidence exists! Medical reports following her examination immediately after the alleged attack state that her injuries were consistent with assault and rape. The social worker Susan Xenarios, who first questioned Diallo after the attack, also supports the theory of an act of aggression (I have yet to find a similar interview with her in the American news). These are at least two independent sources in favor of the veracity of Diallo’s testimony. And still the case is not going to trial?

I understand that the evidence is not 100% sure-fire proof, that a lot of damage has already been done, that the outcome of the trial is questionable. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be one. Trials have been conducted, and won, with a lot less substance. Nafissatou Diallo should have her day in court.

She clearly is ready to take on the fight. Since she has gone public, she has sued the New York Post for calling her a prostitute, and she is seeking damages through a civil lawsuit. Either she is extremely cunning, extremely stupid, or maybe, just maybe, she knows she’s right and demands justice.

Have You Checked Your Credibility Today?

I have been holding off on writing an update on the case regarding Dominique Strauss-Kahn, despite the recent developments that lead to his release from house arrest last week. I have no apologies other than not wanting to ruin my holidays. Turns out it was a good thing to wait and follow the developments closely, as things are progressing fast and now Strauss-Kahn has been accused of another attempted rape, this time by a French writer named Tristane Banon.

But what has actually happened up until this point? The short version: the first accuser’s credibility has been severely damaged, making it less likely for the case to go to court. In rape trials, the judges are often confronted with one person’s word against another’s, so with hardly any hard evidence, both the prosecution and the defense fall back on the accuser’s (non-)credibility to make their case. The prosecution knows that an accuser lacking credibility wouldn’t stand a chance in court, so they would hesitate to go forward with the trial. Therefore, it is not only the defense that has an interest in knowing all about the accuser’s history and lifestyle. In the case of the hotel maid, the research into her background didn’t go so well (for the prosecution): apparently, she had lied during her asylum application and on other occasions and was found to have ties with criminals involved in drug dealing and money laundering. On top of that, she had received large sums of money from different accounts, she had spoken to a convict in prison after the alleged attack about “the possible benefits of pursuing the charges” against Strauss-Kahn, and she gave contradictory accounts of what had happened directly after the attack. All of this sounds very questionable, to say the least, but none of it means that she had been lying about that particular case. It needs to be stressed, that the charges have not been dropped and the case is still scheduled to go to court. But even if it does, which seems a lot less likely now, chances are Strauss-Kahn will be found innocent, based solely on the lack of credibility of the accuser.

What about the credibility of the accused, you might ask? You might. Most people don’t. Or else they would be interested to see that just because DSK doesn’t (yet) have a criminal record, which is, let’s face it, quite ordinary for a man of his class and status, it doesn’t mean there is nothing to be said about his behavior and background. Several women, female journalists and colleagues, have come out about DSK’s inappropriate, over-the-line advances, culminating in the most recent accusation made by Tristane Banon, according to which he sexually assaulted her during an interview situation back in 2003.

None of this is proof that he is, in fact, a rapist, just like the hotel maid’s criminal activity doesn’t make her any less of a possible victim. No one can know the truth, unless either one of the involved would give a full confession. As a feminist, I am torn about the possible outcome. Naturally, I hope that an attempted rape did not take place, just as I hope that no rape ever takes place. At the same time, I hope the accuser did not lie, because if she did it would damage victims’ reputations everywhere and strengthen the myth of lying women falsely accusing men of rape all the time. However, the outcome most likely will be that all charges against Strauss-Kahn will be dropped without a trial and without more evidence and information. In that case, Strauss-Kahn will go home to his wife and kids and he may even be able to continue his career in politics. The accuser’s life, however, has been destroyed, no matter what the truth may be. Meanwhile, all of those screaming I-told-you-so will feel vindicated while waiting ravenously for the dirt to be dug up about Banon’s life. And the story continues…

False Accusations About False Allegations – On One of the Most Insidious Rape Myths

Trigger Warning!

DSK, Kachelmann, Julian Assange – what do these scandals have in common besides being about alleged rapes and sexual assaults by powerful celebrities? All of the alleged victims of these rapes had to face the accusation, made by public figures, the media and public opinion, of having falsely accused their rapist. Can you think of any other crime where this has repeatedly been the case?

Sure, one could argue that these particular cases all involve celebrities, are thus much more relevant to the public, and false accusations seem more probable when money and exposure appear to be a possible motive. However, the truth is that it is not just extreme or extraordinary cases that seem to justify the questioning of the accusers’ honesty. In fact, it is a widespread habit to distrust the word of sexually abused women, one of the reasons why only 13% percent of rape cases end in a conviction and only 15% of rapes are reported in the first place. But what makes this crime so suspicious, compared to any other?

The myth of the stranger rape has long been debunked, that is in circles that have actively looked into rape research. However, the idea of an anonymous man lurking in a dark alley to wait for his random female victim still persists. In reality, the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by people personally known to the victim: relatives, colleages, friends, boyfriends… Other myths include the assumption that rape victims would naturally go to the police immediately after the offense, their memory of the crime would be coherent and without gaps, and they would have obvious physical injuries as proof. Often, so-called victim blaming enters the equation as well; the belief that if the victim drank alcohol and/or dressed or behaved provocatively, she was somehow tempting her rapist and wanted to have sex to begin with.

All of these assumptions do not reflect the reality of most rape cases, yet they are deeply ingrained in our consciousness. It would be naive to believe that police officers, judges and lawyers are completely free from their own moral prejudices. In fact, investigations into so-called false rape accusations have shown that cases were labelled as such simply based on the police officers’ judgment (for example if the victim did not “appear credible” because she had personal relations with the aggressor), or because the allegations were later withdrawn or retracted (for which there could be many reasons that don’t exclude the actual veracity of the crime).

The numbers that I could find for actual false allegations of rape and sexual assault are settled somewhere between 3% and 9%; an almost insignificant amount when compared to other crimes. These numbers need to be recalled when talking about alleged false accusations. Following the media reports during such high-profile cases as the DSK scandal, one could easily get the impression that false allegations among women are rampant, when this is simply not the case. Feminists have fought for centuries to actually make rape a crime under any circumstances and to make it possible for women to report these crimes and be taken seriously. An increase in charges can therefore be considered progress, not the result of some feminist conspiracy in order to oppress men. But the reinterpretation of the male aggressor as the actual victim is a common and unfortunate trend. This becomes evident in the reappropriation of certain terms or sayings, such as the proverbial elevator, which women were not supposed to share alone with a man in order to protect themselves from sexual assault. These days the common belief is that it is the man who should avoid riding an elevator with a single female, in order to protect himself from false accusations.

The idea is that women are now in a more powerful position, in which they can destroy a man’s reputation and life in a moment’s notice, when in fact accusing someone of rape is not equal to a Sunday afternoon stroll. Victims have to endure medical tests and, of course, repeated interrogations that are often traumatizing, as well as detailed investigations into their most intimate private lives. In the process, women are often subjected to the judgment, scrutiny and misgivings of male doctors, police officers and judges, which is not to say their female counterparts were immune to the pervasiveness of rape myths.

Rape myths protect men as sexual aggressors in allowing them to justify their actions, while at the same time calming the public: after all, it could never happen to them or their daughters, because they play by the rules (i.e. don’t drink alcohol, don’t wear “slutty” clothes, aren’t promiscuous…). Moreover, they help to manifest hierarchical power structures between men and women, in that they encourage women to self-police and to seek the “protection” of other men, whereas men are allowed to do as they please and to shift responsibility to the victims. Claiming that in large parts women falsely accuse men of rape is a false accusation in itself. It is another rape myth that needs to be publicly debunked in order to ensure that women no longer remain silent about their suffering. Innocent until proven guilty – we have to remember to apply this first and foremost to the victim.

edgar degas "interior (the rape)" 1868/1869

Sources:

about false allegations: Liz Kelly, The (In)credible Words of Women: False Allegations in European Rape Research, 2010.

about the power of rape myths (in German): Susen Werner, Stereotype Vorstellungen über Vergewaltigungen (Vergewaltigungsmythenakzeptanz) als Prädiktoren der Beurteilung von Vergewaltigungsdelikten durch RechtsanwältInnen, 2011.

a brief summary about the most common rape myths: click here

The DSK Affair – An Angry Rant

I haven’t actually had time to write a full-blown article, but I can’t help but point to the disgusting media frenzy surrounding the rape accusations regarding the IMF boss and candidate for the French Socialist party Dominique Strauss-Kahn. What actually happened? No one knows, but everyone thinks it necessary to take sides and become the judge of the hour. The way this case is being talked about resembles a lot the Assange affair in Sweden and Great Britain and the Kachelmann trial in Germany. That is not a coincidence, it seems to me…
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Why is it easier for us to believe in elaborate conspiracies than in the likelihood of a women being sexually assaulted by a man, a rich man, an powerful man, by any man? What does that say about our culture? Does it mean we don’t believe in rape anymore (because it rarely happens, right…)? Surely not. It means that we have become grown so accustomed to seeing cases like this in the news; something fishy must be in the air…
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I tell you what it is: it is living, breathing proof of rape culture. And it has become so prevalent; it has made everyone hysterical. Everyone?
The alleged victims? Hardly. It takes a lot to make these accusations and for every woman who lies about it, there are hundreds who are not being taken seriously and thousands who never even dare to go to the police.
The feminists who are fighting it? Some of them, sure. That’s because rape has become such a loaded issue in the media, it often triggers misogyny and traumatizes victims, doing more damage than good. Another feature of rape culture.
But most of all these rape apologists who see just another unfortunate man captured by the misandrist system established by greedy lobbying feminists. That’s right. It’s feminism’s fault. Because we love rape culture so much, we secretly rejoice every time a woman is sexually assaulted, because at least it means we’re right…
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Guess what? The only reason why we keep on talking, arguing and screaming about rape culture, is because we want people to know it exists. It’s not a figment of our perverse imagination, it’s not a means for us to dwell upon our victimization. It’s real and it’s happening and when things like this scandal surface, it’s all out in the open only because it happened to someone famous.
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Dear public, rape is not a creation by powerful leaders in order to eliminate their enemies. Rape is real and it happens all the time.
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UPDATE: On Wednesday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as chief of the IMF.
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More links:
What the French press had to say. I can’t be bothered translating, but I assure you it’s disgusting. (via Feministe)
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