DSK Rape Case Takeaway No. 5: You Have to Be the Perfect Victim

The prosecution that was once so sure of its case against former IMF chief Dominique Strass-Kahn is wavering. Score one for victim-blaming.

By Akiba Solomon Jul 01, 2011

Based on the word of two unnamed "well-placed law enforcement officials," the New York Times is reporting that the sexual assault case against former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn "is on the verge of collapse."

The impending collapse is due to "major holes" in the credibility of the 32-year-old Guinean housekeeper who on May 14th accused the liberal French presidential candidate known as either The Great Seducer or a serial offender, depending on the source.

Anyway, here are the "major holes" prosecutors have uncovered, as filtered by three male Times reporters and their editors, whose genders I don’t know:

"The woman 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 the charges against him. The conversation was recorded."

I’d like to hear the audio of that discussion. I do wonder if it also contained anything about, say, the possible drawbacks of being a private citizen and West African immigrant cleaning a hotel room when a rich, powerful, 62-year-old Frenchman emerges naked, rips your pantyhose and forces you to perform oral sex on him.

"That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana."

OK. She talked to a weed dealer. And that makes her less likely to have been sexually assaulted while doing her job?

"He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends."

Involvement in a money-laundering scheme is risky, particularly when you’re the single mother of a 15-year-old daughter and a West African immigrant in the United States on an asylum visa. You know what else is risky? Being a hotel housekeeper charged with cleaning the rooms of powerful men.

"In addition, one of the officials said, she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application."

So is this a question about whether she’d actually been raped and undergone genital mutilation in Guinea–or whether these violations made it into her asylum paperwork and were consistent with her statements to investigators? Is the prosecution really willing to discount what it first described as her "outcries to multiple witnesses immediately after the [DSK] incident, both to hotel staff and law enforcement"? How about the full sexual assault forensic examination they used to corroborate her accusations against an impossibly high-profile and well-connected politician? Is that off the table now, too?

The housekeeper still maintains that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her. But prosecutors will likely drop felony charges against DSK because they’re worried that the woman once described as an unassuming hardworking young Muslim widow will make a poor witness.

You know what this mess tells me? That if you report a rape, you have to be perfect. You can’t make foolish choices. You can’t talk to a drug felon on the phone, (especially if they’re one of a disproportionate number of people of color incarcerated for drug crimes.) You can’t be too poor to hire investigators to do their own digging. You can’t live in housing associated with HIV. You can’t be an immigrant. You can’t be a woman. You can’t be a woman of color. Unless you’re the right kind of witness, you just can’t afford to tell the police or anyone else that a man with power, money, global connections and sense of entitlement raped you. Because you’re below his, the prosecution’s and The New York Times’s pay grade.

If Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent of this crime, this is justice. If he’s guilty, he’ll do this again.

Either way, the mechanisms of victim-blaming will keep on churning.