Scroll to bottom for update posted July 8:
Did Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assault the 32-year-old Guinean housekeeper at the Hotel Sofitel New York? Or is the housekeeper a con artist trying to milk a rich man following a consensual encounter? Or is she a tool for President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Putin to knock a political rival out of the ring?
Taking the last first, much as I despise Sarkozy, this explanation reeks of the kind of paranoid superstition that fuels arguments that Bush & Co. engineered the World Trade Center attack for the political capital they drew from it. These are the same little boys who invaded Iraq without any plan for what to do once they'd toppled Saddam Hussein, yet they supposedly had the foresight and brilliance to pull off one of the most horrific acts of sabotage in Western history—all without exposing themselves as the puppeteers, except, of course, to a few conspiracy nuts.
Okay, perhaps Sarkozy and Putin employ lower-level hacks to come up with harebrained schemes, such as this scheme would be, if it were a scheme. The potential for tracing the plot back to them would be as great as if they'd run a line of TNT from their doors to DSK's. There are easier ways to win an election, as, for example, encouraging more press coverage of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's exploits. Given the credible accusations against him by the French writer Tristane Banon, it is difficult not to suspect other victims of the man's amorous proclivities. Pre-existing victims—far better to indict you with, my dear, than an invented victim with shady credentials. Surely, Sarkozy and Putin, between them, employ sufficient investigative staff to dig up some fallow dirt. With a bit of fertilizer, they'd have themselves a cornucopia of accusations, I'm sure.
So maybe it's just two simpletons putting the squeeze on poor Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the housekeeper and her slimy boyfriend. Neither has given us reason to believe they are politically conscious or expert at researching potential victims of blackmail. Seems doubtful that either knew, for example, of DSK's reputation. But if they were sharp enough to figure out that he made a vulnerable target, why didn't they figure out that he would pack up and leave the US immediately following the putative "attack", which he attempted to do and which he might well have succeeded in doing, given his status? Surely they didn't hope for the DA to indict him, for the court system to get a conviction in less than a year, so that they coud then file a civil suit for damages—to be awarded ten years later and paid, who knows when? Did a couple of con artists really have the patience for all that?
No, no, those who condemn this housekeeper declare. She wanted to blackmail him. Where's the evidence? As far as I know, no one has approached the man for a payoff. I'm sure his lawyers would enjoy telling us all about that, if it had happened.
Admittedly, my ruminations don't amount to evidence one way or the other. I am inclined to believe women who cry rape until definitive proof of their dissembling arises. In this case, such proof has not arisen, in my opinion.
Much was made of the housekeeper going into the next room to clean it following the assault. Proof, some argued, that she was a liar. No one, having just been raped, would be calm enough to clean another room.
Having been kidnapped myself as a young girl (12), held for two hours, and then released, I can assure anyone who has not been attacked, you don't know how you will behave following such a shock. In my case, I was on my way to Sears to purchase a pattern and some material for my junior high school sewing class. When my kidnapper released me, I continued on to Sears, bought the pattern and the material, and walked the mile back home. My mother, seeing my face when I came in the door, said, "What happened to you?" That's when I burst into tears, so traumatized that for a solid year afterward, I could not be in the presence of a strange man without quaking from fear he planned to grab me. Yet a defense attorney would've pointed out that I'd coolly carried out my business in a way that would've been impossible if what I said had happened to me had in fact happened.
Much has also been made of contradictions in the housekeeper's story, specifically that she cleaned another room, watched DSK put his clothes on, or waited in the hallway for him to leave. Any prosecutor can recall massive contradictions in witness statements, contradictions that do not invalidate the overall truthfulness of what they claim. To contradict ourselves is human. In this case, the housekeeper went to the hospital following the attack, her clothing examined and found to have semen on it. Her body showed significant bruising, and she told a rape counselor the story of what happened with details so vivid, you have to be quite cynical to believe her story invented. It doesn't surprise me that she waffled on what she did immediately following the attack (the sole significant contradiction in what she has said about the assault). Not understanding her own behavior but knowing that it would make her appear to have been calmer than she in fact was, she placed herself in three places. Or perhaps she was simply numb when she did whatever she did and now she isn't sure what that was.
Whatever has been dug up about her background shouldn't make her legally "rape-able", any more than a prostitute or a wife should be rendered rape-able. Nothing the authorities have found out appears to invalidate the possibility that this man did attack her. The claim by some French that the prosecutor should have dismissed her story because she was a "mere housekeeper" while DSK is a person of great importance merely underscores the critical importance of giving this woman the benefit of the doubt in the absence of contrary proof. At the time I was kidnapped, women and children were "placed on trial" by the defendant's attorney. A woman's romantic background could be introduced as a way of invalidating her assertions. The housekeeper's background is now being used in the same way. Although nothing is relevant to her story, the prosecutor realizes a jury would consider it so.
I do not know the truth. What I do know so far makes it appear the prosecutor ought to proceed with the case. Too bad he probably won't.
PS I did make the dress. Then I threw it away.
Posted July 5, 2011
Posted July 5, 2011
Updated July 8, 2011:
This morning's NY Times, via columnist Jim Dwyer reports facts of interest re this case: Strauss-Kahn "had invited [two other hotel workers], separately, to visit his suite."
Also, the elevator camera showed "him boarding an elevator around 1:20 in the morning with a woman who did not work at the hotel . . . but she declined to be interviewed."
Dwyer notes that although authorities have a tape of a conversation beween the hotel worker and a friend in which the housekeeper appears quite interested in what she can get out of Strauss-Kahn if she pursues her complaint, "[The housekeeper's attorney] has also noted . . . [she] spoke about the assault, apparently in a way that did not contradict her account [to the authorities]."
As Dwyer further notes, those injured by the intentional wrongdoings of others are "entitled to bring private actions to get economic redress." Had I been raped by such a man, I suspect I too would speak of taking him for every cent I could get out of him.