Last Friday morning began as is typical. I strode from my bed to the coffee maker, bleary eyed but ready for the day, and turned on “Morning Joe” for my early dose of politics when I am greeted with terrible news: Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) was set free from his house arrest. The alleged victim’s accountability was called into question, prosecutors said.
My first thought: the DA was bribed. I will admit, I was shocked that a case filed by a poor minority against a rich, powerful man was getting so much traction. I was pleased, but waiting with baited breath.
First, there was her asylum application where she stated under penalty of perjury that she was gang raped in her home country of Guinea and risked facing this violence again if she returned. She admitted to her lawyer that this was fabricated in her attempt to gain asylum in this country. Her lawyer maintains that she was, in fact, raped in Guinea and that the asylum application embellished the gravity of the attack.
Second, in her grand jury testimony regarding the DSK case, she stated that she fled to the 28th floor following the assault and waited for DSK to leave before reporting it. She later admitted this was false and that she instead went to clean another room before returning to DSK’s suite.
The New York Times reported that the last six weeks have been nothing short of disaster for the prosecution. “Sit-downs with prosecutors became tense, even angry. Initially composed, she later collapsed in tears and got down on the floor during questioning.”
Leave it For the Jury
I won’t ramble on for pages here but I can’t ignore the implications of a story like this.
As a law student, I understand that if the New York DA didn’t think it could prove its case, it couldn’t take it to trial. But I have a question for the NY DA:
Where the evidence seems to support the victim’s story of the event – that of a violent, sexual assault – would it not seem proper to let the jury decide her credibility?
Commentators have made some interesting points. Some have said that rape victims often forget or misstate facts following an assault because of the trauma itself. Others point out that many applicants lie or embellish on their asylum application – and isn’t this also a commentary on immigration?
And I must add, it’s not as if the DSK has a squeky-clean record. A French writer, Tristane Banon, is claiming that DSK attempted to rape her during an interview in 2003. While she is threatening to file charges, DSK is threatening to sue her for making false statements.
I don’t claim to have any insight into this case; I don’t know if she was raped in Guinea and I am far from advocating for asylum applicants to lie about their reasons for needing protection.
But I do know this: high-profile rape cases that deteriorate and paint the victim as an untrustworthy, scheming, liar undermine rape victims everywhere and enforce stereotypes of a crime that is already not taken as seriously as it should be.
“Morning Joe” host, Joe Scarborough, was more concerned with the fact that DSK’s career was ruined. Far be it from me to predict the future, but I am pretty sure he will resurrect some semblance of a career if he wishes. But by all means, let’s not discuss what this means for the woman in this case.