As it can be taken from several media sources, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (see post about “honeytrapping” and his case here) has been released from his house arrest today because the prosecution is not sure anymore whether they will be able to make a strong case against him in a rape trial at all, since the potential victim has apparently lied about several details concerning her past and the course of action in the immediate aftermath of the potential rape.
Jill at Feministe has written a great post about it, “There Are No Perfect Accusers,” and I personally just have a couple of things I’d like to add.
First, some of the articles and many of the comments I have read in the german press were remarkably smug (“I told you so! “-like), and most of them did not cover any basic facts whatsoever (as in: when did she lie? About what? Did she lie about the potential rape? What evidence is there to support this claim?). It is often simply insinuated that some “lies” concerning her case made it impossible for Strauss-Kahn to be further prosecuted, so one is left to assume that the potential victim just made the whole story up. It is only through reading a whole bunch of articles from different (international) media sources that one gets a fuller picture, namely, that the prosecution has actually not said that she was lying about the potential rape, but about some aspects concerning its aftermath, and about unrelated incidents in her past.
Second, it is alleged that the potential victim, an immigrant from Guinea, has lied on her application for asylum in the US and thus severely impaired her credibility. Let me start by saying that lying about certain things in your past does not make you a liar for life, and most certainly does not make you less believable as a crime victim. Furthermore, lying during your application process for asylum is the best bet for many people to get out of horrible situations. I personally cannot see anything wrong with that, given the viciously protected borders (European/African and US/Mexican, for example) that people who happen to not be born in some of the world’s richest countries encounter, the racist attitudes immigrants are confronted with, and the ridiculously hard processes they have to go through to actually qualify for a short-term stay.
Third, it is alleged that the potential victim phoned a rather dodgy acquaintance or friend in prison and discussed the pros and cons (or: “possible benefits,” as it is framed in some articles) of going forward with pressing charges against Strauss-Kahn. I don’t understand what the big deal is about this, at all. Given the prominent status of Strauss-Kahn, the fact that she was probably aware of the potential consequences of accusing someone with his political status and power of rape (maybe it was also – and this is mere speculation because I obviously don’t know anything about her – a particularly difficult thing for her to do whilst battling for a more permanent residence permit, for example?), and then having to defend herself against the public humiliation (that followed in an exemplary manner in her case), I think it is absolutely imperative for people (even more so in such precarious circumstances) to talk to someone as to how to proceed. This necessity is primarily due to the reactions victims are confronted with and is thus a rather sad business, not something that should be used against people.
Even if the words “possible benefits” were actually said (not that anyone knows for sure; that doesn’t stop some journalists from making sweeping claims, however), they do not mean nor imply “financial benefits.” The benefits might be to (retrospectively and/or proactively) defend yourself against being sexually assaulted and trying to prevent this happening to other women by the same perpetrator; bringing the perpetrator (somewhat and only rarely) to justice for hir crime; starting a therapeutic process; trying to be an example for certain women who were assaulted themselves (and maybe especially for a certain group of female immigrants who are expected to work for minimum wage (or less) and are being treated disrespectfully , to say the least, in return). Actually, I can think of many things besides “Uhm… so do you think that’ll get me some money?!”
Ideally, time will show what was really going on, and maybe the potential victim was lying about certain parts of or even the whole potential rape. Importantly, though, this cannot be concluded from what is currently known; and there has been evidence of a sexual encounter and of physical injuries. But even if this case turns out to be a wrongful accusation (which will, I am sure, be followed by a backlash about teh menz as the poor victims, as Ilse Lenz has illustrated recently): their rate is overall low (in germany between 2 and 7 per cent, although the higher end of this spectrum is very questionable, cf. the afore-mentioned link), and the conviction rate in rape trials in germany is a whopping 20 per cent (up from 13 per cent in 2006, though). Moreoever, the estimated number of unkown rape cases is suspected to be 20 times higher than the number of actual reports. Clearly, there is no reason to gloat. Nevertheless, in the meantime, one will probably get showered with victim blaming articles about the unreliable testimonies of gold-digging maids who couldn’t resist sexaaay Dominique and now want to milk him for all he’s worth… Yay.