The Dominique Strauss-Kahn (or DSK) story has followed a partly unpredictable course. First of all, most sexual assaults are not reported, including those committed by members of the cultural elite. Second, most assailants are not caught if the assault is reported. Even if arrested, most assailants are not prosecuted. So I was initially impressed at the speed of this beginning of this story, where the hotel maid reported, the police found evidence, and an arrest worthy of a TV drama (as the plane that DSK was on was preparing to take off). Wow, I thought, are the planets and stars in some special alignment? Did the Universal Law of Karma supplant the Golden Rule (he who has the gold . . . rules)?
But more recently the Kosmos has returned to business as usual. Irregularities have been found in the past of the maid. She is a poor immigrant. Seems she lied on asylum papers. She knows people who are serving time in jail. She has multiple cell phones.
None of which have anything to do with the rape charges. All of which may derail the prosecution’s case.
As any number of women who have tried to prosecute rape have found out, stuff like that matters to a significant number of potential jurors. As a culture, we like our victims stainless. And if the victim comes across as less than a madonna (not to be confused with pop icon Madonna), if they come across as a real person with warts and fears and the possibility that 20 years ago they may have inhaled, they are not deserving of justice. (That’s why assailants will often seek out targets who they think cannot withstand a caustic public scrutiny.) Very few people will actually come out and say that, but actions such as votes in a jury do speak louder.
Currently, it’s estimated that between one in eight to one in five women will be targeted for sexual assault sometime in their life. If you are one, here are my recommendations should you choose to report and prosecute, regardless of whether or not you fought back, evaded rape, or complied with the assailant’s demands.
- First, find a sexual assault advocate. One who is experienced and believes you. Preferably not on the police payroll, but from an independent group. In the Seattle area, good choices are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and Harborview Medical Center. University of Washington students can contact SARIS.
- Second, get your own lawyer. Yes, rape is a crime against the state. And a good lawyer can help you navigate through the criminal justice maze.
- Finally, get a REALLY good therapist. You’ll need one.
PS – I was thinking of writing on DSK’s peanut gallary (i.e., those public figures who insisted that a man of DSK’s standing would NEVER commit rape). Jon Stewart, however, did such a good job, and as I always say if you can’t beat it, link to it.