“The Great Seducer” Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves this week after being at the centre of a sex scandal which has both fascinated and repulsed the French and US media. Acquitted of all charges of sexual assault against Sofitel chamber maid Nafissatou Diallo, he can now focus on rebuilding his reputation while Diallo must tolerate the ignominy of being viewed by the US public as the villain in this pantomime. The New York Post has done much to facilitate this perception, labelling her a liar and a prostitute throughout the course of events.
Here’s a speedy breakdown of events, if you haven’t followed this one so closely...
May 14 DSK taken off a plane at JFK Airport and arrested for sexually assaulting a chambermaid at Manhattan’s Sofitel Hotel
May 15 French Journalist Tristan Banon claims to have been attacked by DSK in 2002.
May 19 DSK pays $1 million bail and remains under House Arrest in New York
May 23 Two female members of staff from the hotel report DSK made “blatantly inappropriate” advances towards them
June 9 Diallo admits to lying about having been raped previously.
June 28 Diallo presents different version of events to the prosecutors.
July 2New York Post runs Front Page “DSK MAID A HOOKER”
July 17 French magazine Le Point report that DSK had a “three for the road” sex binge on the night before the alleged attack.
July 25 Diallo goes public in a detailed interview with Newsweek and appearance on ABC News.
August 23 Prosecutors recommend case to be dismissed.
The prosecutors’ recommendation for dismissal is telling. In short, the charges were dropped because Diallo had discredited herself to such an extent, that the prosecutors could not allow her to stand in front of a jury. Her story changed several times, giving different accounts of what happened straight after the alleged attack. In addition, she admitted to entirely fabricating a story about being gang-raped in Guinea, having originally told the story with heartfelt emotion and conviction in crying her eyes out and throwing herself onto the interview table in despair. The prosecutors interviewing her were incredibly moved by this “performance.” If Diallo had been lying, and seemingly able at will to “muster emotion for effect,” how could she be trusted to go in front of a jury? US law forbids a witness to be allowed to testify if they are judged by prosecutors to be unreliable. It doesn’t matter if the witness is the complainant herself.
In short, the charges were dropped because Diallo had discredited herself to such an extent, that the prosecutors could not allow her to stand in front of a jury.
The murky incident is mired in a dissatisfying lack of clarity. Strauss-Kahn admitted to having “a hurried sexual encounter” with Diallo. Diallo accused Strauss-Kahn of pushing her onto the floor and forcing his penis into her mouth, before ejaculating on her mouth and uniform. Strauss-Kahn’s semen was found on her uniform and the carpet. The entire incident lasted “approximately seven to nine minutes.” But somewhere along the line the naked fact that a sexual act took place seems to have been entirely forgotten. Instead, Diallo’s past and present errors of judgement eclipsed the undeniable fact that something distasteful must have happened in Suite 2806, and with a man with a well documented history of mistreatment towards women.
Indeed, within the French press it was widely acknowledged that a female journalist should not be left alone with Strauss-Kahn. Journalist Tristan Banon came forward with the revelation that Strauss-Kahn attempted to rape her during a interview in 2003. Furthermore, Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, a socialist well known for having had a long list of lovers in her time, admitted to having had sex with Strauss-Kahn in 2000, during which he made love to her “with the vulgarity of a soldier.”
And yet the prosecutors’ primary focus throughout was not Strauss-Kahn’s character and history. Rather, it was Diallo’s past which came under intense speculation and investigation. Instead of asking if Strauss-Kahn was the type of person who could attack a woman in this way, they asked whether Diallo was the type of person who could fabricate this story. The prosecutors concluded the latter, which was the easier thing to do, and the US law supported their actions.
It is evident that Diallo’s account of what happened in the aftermath of the incident lacks credibility. But what of Strauss-Kahn’s account of this? He didn’t provide details of where he went straight afterwards until 3 weeks after the incident took place. Doesn’t that make him lack credibility too? Who knows why Diallo chopped and changed her story? Frankly, who cares why? When we have factual evidence of a rushed sexual encounter of less than ten minutes between a man like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a chamber maid who doesn’t seem nearly malicious enough to prepare a pre-meditated sex sting on a guest staying at the hotel where she had been a model employee for 3 years. None of it makes sense.
It is evident that Diallo’s account of what happened in the aftermath of the incident lacks credibility. But what of Strauss-Kahn’s account of this?
For these reasons alone, this trial should have gone in front of a jury. It should be up to a jury to decide whether Diallo is to be trusted or not. Just how good an actress is she purported to be? And how stupid are New Yorkers purported to be?
The prosecutors state that “the nature of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter between the complainant and the defendant.” Despite the fact that they cannot categorically say a rape did not take place, the US law is crystal clear where reasonable doubt is concerned.
But this is rape we’re talking about. This is an accusation of a man forcing his penis into a woman’s mouth. Doubt, reasonable or otherwise, is not a strong enough reason to dismiss a case of this nature. The law protected DSK to such an extent that he didn’t even have face cross examination. Justice, it seems, is in hiding. A depressing outlook for women’s rights and brave victims of sexual assault.
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