Guilty for Speaking Up – Blaming Survivors of Sexual Violence

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

As many of you undoubtedly know, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now-former head of the International Monetary Fund and a candidate for President of France, has been accused of raping a hotel housekeeper in New York City.

Cue the survivor blaming.

The letter of the law in the United States requires that someone accused of a crime must be considered innocent until proven guilty. If only the law required such a high standard for a survivor of sexual violence.

This morning when I was reading the New York Times, I came across an article about all of the attention given to the survivor of this allegedly horrific attack.  In situations like the one involving Strauss-Kahn, “the women suffer the collateral damage of our interest” in powerful men.  The article describes the way that we obsess over the women who are tied sexually to powerful men like Strauss-Kahn, whether that obsession regards a consensual relationship like in the recent scandal involving Arnold Swartzenegger or rape.

Almost immediately after the allegations of rape were made against this powerful man, the allegations of fraud and sexual impropriety against the survivor began to pile up.  The common narrative isn’t that a power-obsessed womanizer might have taken his lust one step too far, sexually assaulting a woman who he sees as beneath him.  The NY Post even victimizes the alleged rapist, calling him a “humiliated, 62-year-old suspect” who couldn’t get bail due to his being a flight risk (since if he gets back to France, he will never see a court room).

No. The narrative is that a low-income immigrant woman MUST be lodging fake allegations in hopes of getting rich.

As one disgusting lawyer dared put it, “”She could make $6 million, maybe more, just by shutting her mouth.”

Further, she’s not just any woman.  She very well could be an HIV-positive woman!  Her apparent time living in a home for those with or the families of those with HIV or AIDS is focused on so heavily as a way of calling the survivor a SLUT (without actually doing so, of course).

Is it any wonder, then, that 60% of the French think the survivor is lying?  Stephen Clarke put it well when he said,

“This is why the French establishment sees Mr. Strauss-Kahn — rather than the traumatized chambermaid the police say he attacked — as the victim. The same case would never have come out in the open in Paris. The woman would have been quietly asked whether she thought it was worth risking her job and her residence permit. She would have been reminded that it was her word against his, and frankly, whom would people believe? The witty, famous man with the influential friends, or the nobody?”

Forget the fact that this is not the first woman to claim to have been sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn.

Forget the fact that before arresting him, the NYPD looked into the facts of the case and, knowing their incredibly high-threshold of evidence required in rape cases, still decided to call the Port Authority, hold up a plane, and arrest Strauss-Kahn by pulling him off a plane before he escaped to France.

Forget the fact that the woman was willing to submit herself to the incredibly intrusive and re-traumatizing legal “rape kit” process so that her story could hold up in court.

Forget the fact that approximately 2% of rape allegations are found to be false (despite the common perception held in our culture that women make up rape allegations all the time).

Forget those facts, because in the court of American (and apparently French) public opinion, men who are accused of rape should be innocent until proven guilty, but the survivor is always guilty until proven innocent.


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