Who’s Really on Trial in the DSK Rape Case? [Reader Forum]

A very rich, powerful man is accused of raping a woman of color. So why is his accuser's past on trial? Readers chime in.

By Channing Kennedy Jul 05, 2011

The New York Times tell us that the sexual assault case against former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn "is on the verge of collapse." And why’s that? Our Gender Matters columnist Akiba Solomon argues that it’s got very little to do with the facts of the incident in question, and everything to do with a sad societal constant: if you want justice after being sexually assaulted, you have to be the perfect victim.

Victim-blaming in criminal cases isn’t new; remember how much work was done, in comment areas and in the courtroom, to cast the late Oscar Grant as a dangerous black thug? But it’s especially prevalent and especially legitimized in this case, with the media as judge and jury, and with the plaintiff on trial. Here’s what you had to say about it.


Even if he is innocent this isn’t the right way to get TO justice. It seems to be completely based on victim blaming. Ultimately credibility does have to be considered at trial, but "is not a perfect white virgin" isn’t a meaningful statement on credibility.

It looks more to me like the real reason the case is on the verge of collapse is that raping an "imperfect" woman is serious enough for DSK to lose his job over, but not serious enough to go to jail over.


You do have to be perfect to report a rape case. It’s not just that you can’t be someone that society feels doesn’t count (in this case a poor West African MUSLIM-gasp!-immigrant)-you can’t be "the wrong kind of woman". You know-the kind that’s single and lives alone. The kind that had one or two beers before her attack.The kind that’s had sex in the last decade. The kind that doesn’t leave the house covered from head to toe. Victim-blaming/shaming is just part of our pervasive rape culture.


If he’s innocent, this is not justice. Who gives him his job back? Who gives him his political future back? Who gives him the time he spent in confinement back? Or the money he was forced to spend on his own house arrest? If he’s innocent, he’s been victimized terribly.

If he’s guilty then, yes, everything you’ve said is true.

and Ericsays responds:

If he’s innocent, he loses a few months and a couple hundred thousand dollars. DSK is a very rich, very powerful man. Sure, he may not be the next President of France, but it’s impossible for me to feel sorry for him. He will continue to enjoy a rarefied life, and besides, he has a long, well-known history of "aggressively pursuing" women or some other such euphemism.

Todd Hollst, on Facebook:

I would argue if the accused rapist were an average guy and not the former head of the IMF, the prosecution would likely go forward full force with the case. I think this shows more of a cowardice streak on their part than the notion of the "perfect victim." DSK has the resources to put up a stonewall defense against such accusations, while the average defendant generally does not.

to which Virtue Bajurny responds:

i’m not trying to be a jerk; i’m just trying to think this through: that still seems like a procedural issue that rests on the idea of the ‘perfect victim’, no?

…i realize that what you are saying about the prosecution’s consideration of DSK’s defense team is likely true, but i’ve seen cases dropped against ‘average defendants’ for similar anxieties related to a victim’s background. i think maybe that’s why it’s not quite clicking for me?

though, truthfully, these things are rarely one way or the other and perhaps it is a mixture of all these different facets.

as does Sharmili Majmudar:

With all due respect, Todd, as someone who works with rape victims on a daily basis, it’s not uncommon for a victim’s credibility to be called into question for any of the factors named by Akiba Solomon – by both prosecutors and those who defend the "average defendant."

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