DSK: secrets and lies

DSK: secrets and lies

by digby

I haven't written all that much about the DSK matter, preferring to wait until the evidence was formally presented before coming to any conclusion about what happened. As I wrote earlier, my instincts as a civil libertarian often come in conflict with my innate sympathy for rape victims so I choose to be very, very, very careful in these cases.

Well, there's not going to be a trial and it seems to me that this is the right decision. It's awful to think that this woman won't get justice if her claims are true, but our legal system requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt and in the case of rape, the victim's credibility is paramount. If they'd dropped the case because it turned out she'd had one night stands or some such, it would have been a travesty. Luckily, we seem to have come to the point (at least some of the time) that a rape victim's credibility isn't based upon her being chaste. But to convincingly lie over and over again to the prosecutors about another rape that didn't happen? That goes directly to her credibility. They had to drop the case.

Katha Pollit, a feminist with impeccable credentials, agrees:

The prosecutors did what they had to do when they dropped the charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. As they wrote in their motion to dismiss, Nafissatou Diallo had told too many untruths, and told them too persuasively. Supporters have put forward explanations for her shifting stories—rape trauma, mistranslation, distrust of the DA’s office, fear of job loss and even deportation—but what comes through the motion to dismiss is that the prosecutors just got fed up. It wasn’t just that they didn’t think they could get a conviction with such a flawed complainant. It was that they themselves had lost confidence in her: “The nature and number of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter between the complainant and the defendant. If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so.”

But she provides a necessary note of caution about out vaunted legal system nonetheless:

The real credibility problems with Diallo shouldn’t make us forget how many women lose out in the justice system because behind them lurks the suspicion that they are lying, or crazy, or slutty or fair game, or a woman scorned, or out for money, fame or “attention.” The onus is always on her to disprove these powerful cultural myths, and it’s remarkable how hard it can be. Something. There’s usually something.

That's right. I don't know of any other crime where so much is required of the victim in order to make the case, even where DNA is present. Unfortunately, there's no good answer for this. Convicting someone of a crime they didn't commit is a horror of its own magnitude, done in the name of the people. We are all implicated when it happens.

There is a silver lining in all this. The French have awakened to the fact that sexual harassment and assault are not laughing matters. DSK's aggressive behavior toward women was legend and they never took it seriously. Since the charges,however, women have come forward and the nation has done some soul searching.

It always takes something like this for otherwise modern cultures to understand that sexual freedom doesn't equal coercion. That seems definitional to me, but some people seem to have a really hard time with it.