by Anthony Schiappa
An entry written in August 2011, posted for the first time on OWG.
This week, prosecutors dropped the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former managing director of the IMF and French Socialist Party member, who in May was accused of sexually assaulting Nafissatou Diallo, a maid working in his hotel. With an irony usually reserved for satirists, District Attorney Cyrus Vance said, “Our job is to seek justice, not convictions at any cost.” While in many cases lack of evidence hardly prevents the prosecution from “seeking convictions at any cost,” this case would be a “classic he said-she said” scenario, thus difficult to prosecute. Others in the DA’s office insisted they were dropping the case due to lack of evidence, stopping short of saying they believed he is guilty.
DSK is rich and therefore likely to walk from any charges, and Diallo has what has been quaintly termed “credibility problems.” There is evidence that she lied on her application for political asylum, claiming she was gang-raped in her native Guinea. Her family in New York implied that she was a victim of sexual violence before immigrating but had exaggerated the circumstances—apparently she was only “regular” raped.
The prosecution, as well as few columnists, rushed to insist that the dropping of the case did not mean that women who have lied in the past have no recourse to the courts if they are raped. Perhaps they were compelled to reassure us in this way because many women do not, in fact, have recourse to a legal system that accepts the “once a lying bitch, always a lying bitch” defense. It's used all the time.
Furthermore cases like this further legitimize the entirely justified mistrust of the legal system held by many non-whites. The fraud should be obvious, from the lower criminal courts, where the state strong-arms money from poor people who have committed meaningless offenses, to the endless stories of black and Latino men essentially held in storage in the federal prisons—doubly dehumanized, first as superfluous labor, then as commodities in the for-profit penal system.
In the meantime, for bravely stepping forward to face down her attacker, who happened to be one of the most powerful men in the world, Diallo will not only face perjury charges, but will also likely have her asylum application reviewed and may be deported.
It’s a predictable end to this battle and its irresistible parallels: a woman from Guinea, a country metaphorically raped by the IMF, came to the US in an attempt to improve her lot in life, only to be sexually assaulted by IMF’s managing director. She escaped the unbearable hell of everyday life endured by millions of forgotten people under the world’s economic arrangements, only to be personally, directly assaulted by one of the men who manage these arrangements.
No, she didn’t get justice. But was that ever really in the cards? She may win her civil trial, in which case DSK will have one of his accountants fetch her a shovelful of cash out of his giant stash —chump change for him, more money than any of us will ever see in our lifetime. And she’ll need it simply to stay in the country, in much the same way that countries beholden to the IMF must do anything just to stay in the global economic game.