Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, who faces serious charges of sexual assault on a maid in a Manhattan, may yet walk free – and become President of France.
New York Times reports that the case against Strauss-Kahn is “on the verge of collapse” since investigators had uncovered “major holes” in the credibility of the hotel housekeeper who had made the charges against him.
Strauss-Kahn resigned as IMF chief following the scandal, which also appeared to have torpedoed his shot at the French Presidency as a candidate of the Socialist Party. But there is already speculation that if the charges against him are dropped, as appears likely, Strauss-Kahn could yet secure the Socialist Party nomination – and perhaps even go on to win the Presidency, beating Nicolas Sarkozy.
Joe Weisenthal writes at Business Insider:
Prior to arrest, DSK was the likely socialist candidate to run against Nicolas Sarkozy, and he was seen as having a good shot at beating him.
Now his odds would be even better. Remember, DSK has been viewed rather sympathetically in the French media, post-arrest, with much blame going towards the American media (for how he has been portrayed) and the American criminal justice system (for how he was treated)….
So he comes back to France a hero, having weather the criminal justice system and the media. He easily wins the Socialist nomination, and with tensions over euro bailouts reaching a boil, he then defeats Sarkozy.”
The theory isn’t implausible, given the realpolitik considerations that ride on this case: if the dominoes fall exactly as described, within an abbreviated time frame, Strauss-Kahn could go on to win the presidency. There have been suggestions in the French media, right from the first day, that Strauss-Kahn was “framed” in the case because he was seen as a serious challenge for the presidency.
Yet, even if he is exonerated from the sexual assault case under these circumstances, the suspicion that he walked free by invoking one of the most controversial defences in cases of sexual assault – by discrediting the victim – could linger for long.
Forensic tests conducted immediately after the alleged assault found evidence of a sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and the maid. Traces of his DNA were recovered from her clothes. His defence in the early days of the trial rested on the claim that any sexual encounter that happened was consensual.
His legal defence team’s strategy then moved to attacking the victim’s credibility, which is the oldest trick in the book in cases of alleged sexual assault. Prosecutors in the case now appear to have taken the same tack in rejecting the maid’s claims.
In her research paper Discrediting Victims' Allegations of Sexual Assault: Prosecutorial Accounts of Case Rejections, Lisa Frohman at the University of California at Los Angeles and American Bar Foundation, points out that “a central feature of prosecutorial accounts of case rejection is the discrediting of victims' allegations of sexual assault.” And prosecutors typically employ two techniques to discredit victim's complaints: discrepancies in the victim’s accounts and alleged ulterior motives.
Writing about an unrelated case in 2003, USA Today’s columnist Susan Estrich, who was herself raped as a 20-year-old, recalled the pressures that a victim of sexual assault faces:
Nearly 30 years ago, I sat in the back of a police car as the Boston cops warned me about what would happen to me if I officially reported that I'd just been raped.
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