As most of you undoubtedly know, the New York prosecutor has dropped the charges of attempted rape [and other charges] against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and the French politician once expected to lead the Socialist Party back to power in the next presidential election. "California Prof" suggests that I make a comment on this turn of events. [He/she also rather snarkily suggests that we on the East Coast say something about our super-big earthquake, which struck at 1:51 p.m. yesterday, but since I did not even feel it, I do not think I should write about it.]
Since I blogged about the DSK case a good deal from Paris when it broke, I think I owe it to my faithful readers to say something by way of conclusion. So, here goes. I will try to make this as compact as I can.
Nafissatou Diallo, a West African immigrant hotel maid, says that DSK assaulted her and forced her to have oral sex with him when she went to his room, as he was preparing to check out, to clean the room. Since he never went to trial, his version of the events is not on the record. Diallo turned out, on investigation, to have a questionable past, and questionable associations, and to have lied about some elements of her story. There is no suggestion of money having been offered or accepted. Because a case like this almost always rests on the reliability of the accusing party, the authorities decided they could not be confident of getting a conviction, and have dropped the charges.
Forensic evidence has established the presence of DSK's semen on the rug where Diallo said it would be. [It may also have confirmed the presence of semen on her clothing, but I am not sure about that.] On the basis of this and other facts, we can be sure that one of two things happened in that room that day: (1) DSK assaulted Diallo and forced her to have oral sex with him; (2) DSK and Diallo had consensual oral sex. If (1) is the case, DSK is guilty as originally charged. If (2) is the case, he is not guilty.
Let us be clear. There is no third way. We cannot shave a bit off Diallo's charges because of her unreliability as a witness, and shave a bit off DSK's defense because of his history as a serial sexual abuser, and decide that the truth lies somewhere in between. There is no in between. Contrary to popular views widely held although rarely expressed openly, a woman does not lose her right not to be sexually assaulted because she is promiscuous, because she entered the United States illegally, or has several cellphones, or called a friend in prison after the event to discuss it with him. She does not even lose the right not to be sexually assaulted if she works as a prostitute. "She had it coming to her" is the oldest and most widely invoked excuse for male sexual assaults, and it just doesn't cut it.
So what happened? Obviously, I do not know, but I have an opinion, and I will give it to you for what it is worth. I believe that Diallo's version of the events is more believable than the version that DSK presumably would have given at trial, namely that the sex, while real, was consensual. To believe Diallo, we must suppose that DSK is a predatory man who goes through the world convinced of his irresistibilty, needing endless reconfirmations of his sexual attractiveness, impressed with his own importance, and thinking that he can get away with a sexual assault as -- apparently -- he has in the past. To believe DSK, we must suppose that when the maid came to the room, he said to her, "Hi, there. How about a blow job before I check out?" Whereupon she said, "Sure, I'm not too busy, where would you like it?" -- or words to that effect.
Take your choice. Let me offer one tiny bit of confirmatory evidence, which I must confess I consider really significant. In her original testimony, she describes DSK as saying to her, while he was forcing himself on her, "Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who I am?" It is a small thing, but it is pitch perfect. That -- as we know from so many examples of American politicians who are stopped by TSA officials or the like -- is just exactly what a self-important man like DSK would say if someone he considered his inferior in every way resisted his advances.