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…