Sure, of course you “knew it.”

1 Jul

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.

15 Responses to “Sure, of course you “knew it.””

  1. Tori July 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Yeah, I’m kind of repulsed by media coverage of this. And of course I’ve made the mistake of reading — and even engaging in — the comments.

    • accalmie July 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      Oooh, absolutely – that’s often my biggest mistake (and serverely depressing)…

  2. LG July 3, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Just to be fair, the 3% to 7% figure on false accusations is the number of cases that could be proven to be a false accusation. There is of course, a higher unknown number of false accusations behind this as well. So all unproven cases could just as well be unproven false accusations, you cannot tell this simply from the numbers.

  3. accalmie July 3, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Actually, many of the “3 – 7 per cent cases” have not been “proven” to be wrongful accusations. Most of them have been declared as “false” claims before they either made it to a prosecutor’s office or to trial; hence: they were subject to police officers’ or prosecutors’ opinions on what makes a good trial/could make a hopeful case or who might be lying here beforehand. Whatever you think of DSK’s case, it might be thrown out because the prosecution isn’t sure whether the potential victim would hold up in court, given her lies about the aftermath of the potential rape and unrelated incidents – they have not questioned her report of the potential rape (and that there was DNA evidence and that DSK has lied repeatedly himself). This is how cases get thrown out and land in the “3-7” percentile as well – it’s not about gathering evidence that completely clears every accused.

    If you read the reports (e.g. the one from Bavaria, where police seems to have a particular bias towards the 7 per cent), the personal opinions of officers involved in those “false claims”-cases had a heavy influence and it’s not like they all agreed constantly. So what exactly you mean by “There is, of course [of course!!1!] a higher number of false accusations behind this as well” seems to be a little unclear (read: a sweeping claim without any foundation). Second, it’s of course always fun to call all potential rape victims vindictive bitches who want to incarcerate teh innocent menz. But, as mentioned in the post, the number of unkown rape cases is expected to be around 20 times higher than the official numbers. So even if you personally believe that officially registered this year was just some woman hoping to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend by going through the most delightful process of filing a rape charge, there are still plenty of rapists who don’t have to face any legal consequences out there.

    That’s what I meant with there’s no reason to gloat, and that’s why I find it so extremely tiresome to have to keep talking about “trapped men” and “wrongful accusations” every single goddamn time one talks about rape. Not raping people is pretty easy, actually, so no, I most certainly do not have any sympathy for any guy who thinks that a rape charge might be a bit of a stretch for what happened last night.

    Moreoever, many men had superb careers after a rape accusation, some even after a conviction. And, again: rape is the crime with the potentially highest number of unkown cases. But I guess many of those could as well be false accusations, again – so, well, whatever….? Shit happens…?

    • LG July 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

      It’s not about vindictiveness. Nobody is saying that all women are evil harpies!

      The most frequent motive behind creating a rape story out of thin air is about dodging responsibility.

      For instance, the wife who wants to explain away a sex affair.

      Or the teenage girl, who is too shy to confess to her parents that she already sees a boyfriend.


      • accalmie July 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

        Ah, of course. I need to “relax,” and just see that women are not all harpies and yet many of them frequently create “rape stories out of thin air” to get out of responsibilities (etc). Good to see that numbers and detailled arguments still swoop past people who want to stick to their “general knowledge”-claims that women lie about rape all the time. Also good to see that wordpress bloggers are able to block the IPs of concern trolls… And this hysterical feminazi rules with an iron fist… So: buh bye.

        • Anna-Sarah Hennig July 5, 2011 at 9:26 am #

          Well done <3

          • accalmie July 6, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

            Sorry, Anna-Sarah, Du bist leider aus mir unerfindlichen Gründen im Spamordner gelandet (absurd…) deshalb hat’s länger gedauert, bis Dein Kommentar erschien. Und danke ;). Boah…

  4. foobar July 4, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    two things amaze me about this case and the responses i’ve heard:

    1) the number of people stating that it’s a “tried and proven technique” to honeytrap and smear politically undesirable people through rape accusations. does anyone have any actual proven cases here? any numbers? facts? notable men who have actually been brought down this way? because i don’t know of any. i am really, really open to be proven wrong here, but until now, i’ve been searching in vain.

    2) the preoccupation of decent and respectful men in my acquaintance, with the possibility of being falsely accused of rape, maybe even just through a misunderstanding. does this really happen this often? is this really a threat that men face today? or is this just paranoia? the men who have voiced this concern towards me were unable to provide any examples in their immediate environment where this has actually happened – a man being falsely accused of rape. so where does this fear come from? again, i’m trying really hard to consider the possibility that this is an actual threat, but i cannot find the evidence that this is a valid concern for anyone who behaves respectfully towards their sexual partners. i have a nagging feeling that this is maybe just another form of latent misogyny? or maybe one of the insecurities of our current in-flux state of society?

    • accalmie July 4, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      THIS! Thank you!

      I personally think that if you live in fear that ex-girlfriends/dates/acquaintances could accuse you of rape, you are probably doing something very wrong when it comes to sexual relationships… There are studies that say that rapists actually *know* they are having sex with someone without hir consent, and, on the average, rape more than one person. So, I think that if you are concerned you are doing something that might be framed as sexual assault later, it would be imperative to check with your partner whether your behaviour is making hir uncomfortable or if everything is OK…

      And I think you are absolutely right that this is a form of latent misogyny (as in women cannot be trusted, ever, and they are, deep down, all manipulative and vindictive).

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)!

      • foobar July 5, 2011 at 12:23 am #

        it might be latent misogyny, yes, and for some people i know, that’s a fitting explanation. these cases i just write off as being beyond my influence in any single discussion. but there’s still some cognitive dissonance left for me here.

        the cognitive dissonance arises when i hear these worries from (heterosexual) men whom i know pretty well, and whom i know to be respectful towards their sexual partners. what makes them self-identify with men who are accused of rape? what makes them feel that this dude who is accused of rape could be them, when everything i know about them makes it highly improbable that they would ever find themselves in such a situation? i find this particularly interesting because resolving this issue might go a long way towards diminishing rape culture. because self-identification is a powerful motivator for defending someone else and their actions.

        my gut feeling says that there might be some remnants of culturally learned othering involved (which is still different from misogyny, and can be much more subtle). come to think of it, whether or not this is a concern for the men i know maps interestingly well onto the degree to which they perceive gender as a (juxtaposed) binary.

        the very practical question i’m thinking about here is how to break open and deconstruct this self-identification. so far, i haven’t found a way to do this yet. tribal thinking (male vs female) keeps getting in the way, which is something i feel powerless against. very depressing, because these are people i like a great deal, and it’s very dismaying to see that they will side with a possible rapist.

        any helpful hints on how to deal with this?

        • accalmie July 5, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

          huh – i find this very interesting (especially since i haven’t encountered any heterosexual men explicitly concerned with being potentially accused of rape at some point in my circle of friends, who simultaenously consider themselves feminists or are aware of rape culture, or, at least, respectful towards their partners).

          I think you’re right about “othering” here, and I also suspect the still pervasive underlying assumption that sex is something women “give” to men as a favour and aren’t really that fond of to begin with. Consequently, if you see women “giving” sex to please a man, this favour can be revoked and re-framed as being the victim of a predatory force. So I do believe there’s a “purity myth” at work here (yet again), and many men are being taught that sex is a primarily masculin(ist) issue and “boys will be boys,” whereas women are either special little innocent virgin snowflakes or dirty whores who should be treated as such.

          Absurdly, the likelihood (at least in the US) of men being the victim of sexual assault is higher than that of being convicted for sexual assault – but that they could be victmised themselves seems to be something that never crosses many men’s minds.

          Furthermore, I believe that most of the concerns regarding potential rape accusations can be put in check by acting on the concept of “enthusiastic consent” (cf. the Yes Means Yes-blog).

          From my experience, I reckon that people have seldomly been taught that communication is imperative also in sexual relationships (and that the “it all falls into place naturally” is actually a myth concerning mutual pleasure for most people), and are afraid to talk about their behaviour in the bedroom and possible challenges.

          Ultimately, I’m afraid I have to say, I still have little sympathy for this “OMG she could accuse me of rape at some point” concern by some men, and still believe that if you live in fear of that happening, your assumptions about gender relations are dodgy at least, and you’re maybe even doing something wrong and/or should really talk to your partner.

          • foobar July 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

            hm, long reply.

            what you said here:

            “From my experience, I reckon that people have seldomly been taught that communication is imperative also in sexual relationships (and that the “it all falls into place naturally” is actually a myth concerning mutual pleasure for most people), and are afraid to talk about their behaviour in the bedroom and possible challenges.”

            seems to be true, still. i’ve actually been called “very polite”, in a somewhat astonished tone, after i asked my partner “do you mind if i do X?” or “i’m going to try something now, and you tell me whether you want more of that or whether you want me to stop”. concerning the latter: i’ve heard people complain that “but oooh, if you talk about everything beforehand, it takes away all the excitement!”. that latter variety has so far worked extremely well for me, because it keeps the tension and the unknowns and surprises, but makes it very clear that my partner is in control, and respected, and that they can say “stop!” at any time and will be heard. so much for the (mostly) dudez who like to mock consent by saying “so she has to sign a contract first, yeah?”.
            funnily enough, i also only learned this kind of negotiation when i got involved with somewhat kinky/bsdm people, where negotiation is crucial. seriously, what do they teach us in high school?!

            “Ultimately, I’m afraid I have to say, I still have little sympathy for this “OMG she could accuse me of rape at some point” concern by some men, and still believe that if you live in fear of that happening, your assumptions about gender relations are dodgy at least, and you’re maybe even doing something wrong and/or should really talk to your partner.”

            generally, i agree. generally, this kind of sentiment leaves me somewhat impatient and eye-rolling. what really got to me was that the particular complainant i’m thinking about is very smart, and constantly self-reflecting, and extraordinarily respectful and considerate towards anyone, male or female, who isn’t being a complete moron. had it been any other person, i would have dismissed it as “yeah, whine on, you poor marginalized man”, but hearing that from him made me wonder whether this might not touch on a deeper issue.
            then again, maybe it doesn’t. maybe it’s only a mystery to me because i have never been sexually involved with him. i don’t know.

        • Double Dagger July 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

          I think, this ‘tribal’ thinking is exactly what makes you guys self-identify with false accusers.

          • accalmie July 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

            LOL! Just letting this through because your name amuses me, and this is a perfect example for the argumentative rigour of the average rape apologist. Thanks for playing, little dd, and goodbye!

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