The sexual assault case surrounding former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been one disturbing twist after another. The past few months have been filled with rushed judgment and salacious rumors as Strauss-Kahn, once a strong favorite for a French presidential bid, was charged and held for the attempted rape of a Guinean chambermaid at a prestigious Manhattan hotel.
The most recent of these revelations was the prosecutor’s disclosure of “major holes in the credibility” of Strauss-Kahn’s accuser. The district attorney’s office said that while the woman maintains she was assaulted, and DNA tests have confirmed ‘’unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter’’, the case has been jeopardized by her false claims during the investigation. The defense has already filed to have the charges dropped and now Strauss-Kahn is free on bond during the long holiday weekend.
Among the discoveries are the false claims involving the asylum of the 32-year-old housekeeper, who on her application mentioned a gang rape in her native Guinea. Investigators have determined that her account is different from what is contained in the asylum application. Also, it is alleged that the woman may have links to people involved in criminal activities, and that she had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible “benefits” of pursuing chargers. The accuser also admitted to investigators that she had lied about her income to qualify for subsidized housing, and had claimed a friend’s child as a dependent on tax returns to increase her refund.
There are also discrepancies as to what she did after the alleged attack. She initially said that after she had been attacked she waited in a hallway until Mr. Strauss-Kahn left the room, however she now admits that after the alleged attack, she cleaned a nearby room, then returned to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite to clean there. Only after that did she report to her supervisor that she had been attacked.
This case has raised a number of questions for me from the beginning. As such, I chose to reserve judgment until more facts were revealed. And now, even after more information has been revealed, I still don’t know what to believe. What is clear though is that when it comes to rape, either you are a model victim or by the court of public opinion, you are not a victim at all.
It should be noted that prosecutors are maintaining that they still believed there is evidence to support the notion that Mr. Strauss-Kahn had forced the woman to perform sexual acts for him. However, it is those inconsistencies in her past, which will be a tough sell to jurors, even though Strauss-Kahn has also admitted to initially lying to investigators about having sexual relations with the chambermaid. Yet this hasn’t stopped the media from absolving him, especially since it was the same media that rushed to conviction in the court of public opinion. And now the same media outlets are trying to paint the accuser as a prostitute based on the opinion of “anonymous” sources.
Assuming that Strauss-Kahn did in fact rape the woman, it sucks that you basically have to live the life of Mother Teresa in order to be viewed as a victim. Yes, the alleged victim appears to have general credibility problems, but are those lies – lying on your taxes, fudging income eligibilities for low-income housing and falsifying a visa application to better your chance at the American Dream — any bigger than what many of us could conceivably accused of? More importantly, what does any of that have to do with the fact that she had the accused’s DNA on her and apparent bruising consistent with a non-consensual attack?
When it comes to the issue of sexual assault, people tend to respond to rape victims by a movie-esque portrait of what a rape victim should be. Unless she is bawling her eyes out and running and screaming, clothes half-torn from the scene of a crime, a la Jodie Foster in The Accused, than she failed to live up to the expectations of how a rape victim is supposed to react. However, as famed anti-violence advocate Roger Caniff wrote, “We don’t get our victims from Central Casting. We get them from life. Gritty, unrehearsed, unvarnished life.”
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.