Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perspectival Realism and Rape

Whose reality is it? Whose truth? As is often the case with sexual assault (a crime which usually occurs with few witnesses) it comes down to a battle of credibility, seeming, then, to put the complaining victim, not the defendant, on trial. Yesterday, August 23, 2011, after three months of investigation, the sexual assault charges against former IMF President and likely French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss- Kahn were dropped. His accuser Nifassatou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, Africa was the hotel maid where Strauss-Kahn was staying. The NY prosecutors, perhaps having rushed to charge a man who was getting on a plane to France (a country without an extradition agreement with the USA), yesterday sounded angry at the accuser for the changes, for which she was discredited, in her story.

Certainly defendants can be falsely accused. With changes in the justice system over the decades, the victim is no longer accused of dressing provocatively or 'asking for' the sexual encounter. But questions will always remain in the case of Strauss-Kahn about what happened in that ten minutes. So many questions! Is Diallo a person who could seize the opportunity of a powerful man's sexual activity for her own financial gain? Can't liars and druggies be raped? And while it is said that there are men who would pursue a sexual encounter with anyone at any time, I ask myself: why would such a powerful and wealthy man be so indiscriminate, so pressing with motivation at that moment?

At the time of her report to coworkers, boss, and police, Diallo appeared credible and credibly shaken and injured. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" favors the defense, as is should. But therapists know that trauma causes disorientation and dissociation, making memory patchy. I can therefore understand Diallo moving to clean the next hotel room or returning to clean the room where the alleged attack occurred. I know that people are known to be motivated to please authority, whether the police or the prosecutor (or the rapist) by telling them what they want to hear. Many people can possibly understand lying to gain asylum as Diallo did to stay in the United States. I ask myself: Will this case set back courage to report crimes such as rape or crimes perpetrated against immigrants?

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