Feminism | Posted by Rosamund C on 09/9/2011

Checking In On DSK: Why The Case’s Dismissal Is Bad News For All Of Us

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

I’ll admit, I had never heard of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn – or DSK as he’s been dubbed – before this year. I had, however, heard of the International Monetary Fund, and although I’m not an economics student, I do read the news, and I have the vague knowledge that the IMF is big and important. Its decisions can have consequences for all of us, so having the right person to head the organisation is vital.

That’s why the scandal that engulfed Strauss-Kahn in May of this year was huge. To recap, whilst staying in New York, a maid at his hotel alleged that he had sexually assaulted her. He was arrested, pleaded not guilty, and was bailed after his supportive family paid out a huge sum. Meanwhile, the world’s media realised the huge implications this would have for the IMF, for France, Strauss-Kahn’s home country where he was considered a possible presidential candidate, and for the world. Strauss-Kahn resigned from the IMF just a few days after having been arrested, despite protesting his innocence. This may look like an admission of guilt to some, but with a scandal this big, he wouldn’t have been able to hang on for long, especially as the IMF was having to make some pretty important decisions at the time. If you want to learn more about this case, The FBomb has also previously posted about it and you should check that article by Alec A out here.

On August 22nd 2011, all the charges against Strauss-Kahn were dismissed, due to the unreliability of the witness and an apparent lack of conclusive evidence. Strauss-Kahn may not have his job back, but at least he still has his reputation – despite, as he admits, having had consensual sexual relations with the woman when he was married.

I was severely disappointed with the outcome of this case. When Strauss-Kahn was arrested, I wasn’t sure what to think. I didn’t want to jump to condemn him, but it did seem like a David v Goliath struggle, as the hotel maid – surely a minimum wage earner – is an immigrant from Guinea. Her reputation was also trashed. A recorded phone conversation, heard out of context, was seen as evidence of her lying. Her statements did not add up, and left defence lawyers realising they could get rid of the case quicker than they had hoped.

Because the case was thrown out of court, we will never know the true story of what happened in that hotel room. As far as Strauss-Kahn is concerned, this case is over – although he is also facing sexual assault charges in his home country of France.

From the moment Strauss-Kahn was arrested, I knew this case could not end well. It was incredibly unlikely the maid would surface victorious against one of the most powerful men in the world, not without making him look vilified. Likewise, the events have not done much for Strauss-Kahn; he has little hope of becoming a presidential candidate in France, despite the fact the country is generally more relaxed about sexual scandals than the USA.

Was there a chance in hell of this case going further? Perhaps only if the alleged victim was a fifteen year old blonde virgin who had led a perfect life; nowadays, this may be your only chance if you dare to allege assault. Many rape victims who have the courage to bring their cases to trial find their personal lives being ripped to shreds in the courtroom. This only seems to happen when the assault is sexual. A victim of burglary may have six children by six different women but nevertheless, he is still a victim of crime and his personal life would not come under scrutiny in the courtroom, or be of any importance when convicting the burglar.

Prosecutors pointed out that the maid had told lies in order to get her American visa. Perhaps she did – but isn’t that a matter for a different investigation? They say that her statement of the events that took place that night don’t add up. Wouldn’t any woman who has just been assaulted find it difficult to accurately recall the traumatising incident?

I’m not presuming that Strauss-Kahn is guilty; he may well be innocent. Only he and the woman in question know that. But it seems to me that we cannot presume his innocence just because the case has been thrown out. The courts had a chance to pit David against Goliath and let it be played out, fairly and justly. Instead, both parties have come away dissatisfied, with the alleged victim perhaps seeing her assailant walk free. America had a chance to show that nobody is above the law, but it missed it, and because of that, we will never know what truly happened that night.

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  • sandy price @ at 4:10 pm, September 9th, 2011

    Thanks for an informative and thoughtful piece. Your musings about what may have happened lead me to muse about other possible scenarios. This incident took Strauss-Kahn down. It is just as likely that the sexual encounter could have been set up by a political opponent in France, by an entity or set of entities that did not like the direction the IMF would have been taken under Strauss-Kahn’s lead, or by someone in his wife’s family to expose his philandering in the hopes of forcing him to desist. Ok, yes, yes, that last is a total long-shot, but hey – brainstorming. You know the rules on that. But I do worry about what we might miss if we try to pin the tail on the donkey without enough information. If it were me writing this blog, I might have cast my lot for a French opponent taking him down. Since the trial did not go forward, we will never know whether this was a simple case of sexual assault or something more. And that is a shame.

  • Nancy @ at 4:30 pm, September 10th, 2011

    I think you might be overlooking something important in the dismissal of the Strauss-Kahn case. First, the court system worked remarkably well to protect the State’s ability to prosecute, i.e., DSK was not allowed to leave the country (flight risk)after being charged, despite his “important” position with the IMF. This is a stance that demonstrates that “no one is above the law” when accused of a serious crime. And secondly, if there were serious discrepancies in the maid’s story, I would prefer the State not to spend tens of thousands of dollars prosecuting a case that might paint all rape victims with the same brush. That would not strike a blow for feminism and women’s rights, IMO. So dismissal may have served the feminist community after all, although we may never know enough details to know for certain. It would be easy to see this as a stereotypical “powerful man wins” story, but I think there’s not enough evidence to do so. Just my opinion.

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