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26 Responses

  1. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    This whole case has been rage inducing. I guess when the woman in question is a Black African immigrant hotel housekeeper, she’s unrapeable. And the idea that no man died, so it’s not a big deal–if it happened to a man, they’d be singing a different tune.

  2. Jadey
    Jadey May 24, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    This is an awesome post, Mounia. Thank you.

    How frustrating it is to me that we cannot countenance people we admire and respect as also being capable of terrible things, meanwhile others we can only imagine doing ill. I think that reflects a flawed understanding of humanity. Criticism and holding ourselves accountable should make us stronger, not weaker. The conspiracy is not on the part of the Right to slander the Left, but in our own collective refusal to think of ourselves as anything but impeachable heroes.

    Well, too many of us, at least. :) Thank you for the links to those individual and organizations who are pushing back. Yay for non-Anglo-centric coverage!

  3. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    “If DSK is innocent until proven guilty, then while we assume he’s innocent… we must assume the victim was lying in the meantime.” THIS. THIS x 20.

    Also, you mention at the end about feminist French reactions. Should you have the time, I’d love to hear more about what is being said and what the reactions are in France to these people.

    Great post, awesome perspective. Much appreciated.

  4. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    “Innocent until proven guilty,” is one of the most abused rhetorical misconceptions of the legal process. It only means that the defendant has 5th-amendment protections until he is convicted. It doesn’t mean that we can’t treat him as a dangerous suspect before conviction, that we can’t credit accusations against him, or come to our own conclusions about wanting to be associated with him.

  5. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    I had an argument with a white computer programmer d00d about the presumption of innocence. He didn’t get that it didn’t follow that you assume the accuser/alleged victim is a liar or part of a conspiracy, and didn’t seem to get that this only means it’s up to the prosecution to prove its case, not the other way around.

  6. Jim
    Jim May 24, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    Sheelzebub: And the idea that no man died, so it’s not a big deal–if it happened to a man, they’d be singing a different tune.

    Actually they’d be laughing, not singing, and sniggering and telling him he got lucky. That’s what male rape victims typically get, if they get that far. But your point stands about the African immigrant being unrapeable – that exactly sums up most of the commentary defending him. It’s nauseating and disgusting.

    PrettyAmiable: “If DSK is innocent until proven guilty, then while we assume he’s innocent… we must assume the victim was lying in the meantime.” THIS. THIS x 20.

    Actually no, that doesn’t follow. The presumption of innocence is bassically the suspension of judgement until all the evidence is in. Her accusation is a piece of the evidence, so the presumption does not necessitate disbelieving it. And in view of the other evidence – the fact thatshe is basically powerless, that her accusation under all her experience stands basically no chance of being taken seriously – the mere fact that she made that accusation serves as further corroboration.

    CBrachyrhynchos: “Innocent until proven guilty,” is one of the most abused rhetorical misconceptions of the legal process. It only means that the defendant has 5th-amendment protections until he is convicted.

    No. It goes a lot deeper than that. It is just the observation that the burden of proof is on the person making an assertion, in this case the DA making the accusation. It is not a rhetorical misconception; it is a procedural device to get a more valid judgment, which doesn’t really apply here because the judgment is pretty easy to make, even at my distance. In this case where there is no chance I can think of that DSK is not guilty, it’s a formality.

  7. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos May 24, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    Jim: Except that the burden of proof isn’t a single hurdle that’s determined in a jury trial. The DA and accuser already met one hurdle at the first hearing. At that point, a judge deemed the charges credible enough to take a plea and demanded house arrest and 1 million dollars in bail.

    So, the court has already determined that the charges are credible enough to treat DSK as a suspect and a flight risk, and demand that he submit to court custody pending trial.

    Meanwhile, that standard only applies to legal proceedings. The rest of the world is free to make their own decisions about whether to treat DSK as a rapist based on a lower standard of evidence.

  8. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 24, 2011 at 11:18 am |

    Jim: Actually no, that doesn’t follow.

    K. In practice, that exact thought process happens. I’ve personally experienced being told that many times. Maybe you should go tell victim-blamers and not me.

  9. sad_noodle
    sad_noodle May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |

    Mounia, I had promised myself I’d stop posting about this subject, but your article is just too good to ignore.

    As you point out, it’s important to make a clear distinction between past allegations of DSK’s infidelities, and the rape charge.

    DSK’s camp is doing everything possible to reinvent the wheel here, blurring the lines between rape and seduction by creating their own narrative of how a “grand seducer” doesn’t need to rape, so therefore no rape happened.
    For them, anyone who doesn’t follow that narrative must be ignored. Some in the French press are bending to them, unfortunately.

    Again, really well written, and very readable. I wish you the best in your endeavors, which I hope include more writing.

  10. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    This, this, all kinds of THIS.

    It’s good to read things like this. It helps me feel like less of a complete alien after reading line after line of victim-blaming and rape-denying headlines and quotes.

    There is a similar tendency toward denial among activist communities. I recall seeing a document written by a co-worker about confronting discrimination and assault in anarchist communities, and “just another leftist male” is a common expression of frustration from my partner upon hearing of yet another assault, another incident of abuse or coercion, by a guy who otherwise presents himself as an activist and an ally. The tendrils of patriarchy, and the harmful “privileges” it confers upon men, are everywhere. I was in no way surprised to see people scream “conspiracy!” and rush to defend DSK’s political record at the IMF once the allegations and arrest became public knowledge. The IMF. The disaster-capitalist, thievery-justifying, social structure-destroying IMF. And the defences were coming from individuals and organizations that would normally take a steaming dump on the record of the IMF and the individuals running it. I guess those fools can’t see past the “Socialist” label on his party, or just want an excuse, any excuse, to ignore yet another crime committed by a man who thinks he is entitled to women’s bodies, perhaps because they share the same ideas about women even if they know such things are to remain publicly unspoken.

  11. chava
    chava May 24, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    AFAIK, part of this is about the French ideal that ANY accused person must be presumed innocent, which for them extends to things like no photos of the accused in handcuffs, no perp walks, etc–nothing that creates a presumption of guilt in the public eye. I’ve read a few articles (trying to find the links) in the French press about the difficulty/cognitive dissonance of maintaining this necessary presumption of innocence while still giving the victim of a crime a fair hearing as well.

    That isn’t to say that a nice, fat chunk of it isn’t about nastier things as well.

  12. gretchen
    gretchen May 24, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    Thanks for this great post Mounia.

    @jim: i’m pretty sure that Mounia and PrettyAmiable we agreeing that the tendencies in public reaction/media coverage of the victim were to portray “If DSK is innocent until proven guilty, then while we assume he’s innocent… we must assume the victim was lying in the meantime” NOT that they agree with that sentiment or that it legally follows as such.

  13. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm |

    I’m going to be Captain Obvious here, but I’d just like to remind any lurking rape-apologists/people who think that ZOMG RICH WHITE LEFTY D00DS ARE NOT CAPABLE OF RAPING ‘CHAMBERMAIDS’ that housekeeping staff is actually pretty vulnerable to this shit.

  14. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    “K. In practice, that exact thought process happens. I’ve personally experienced being told that many times”

    Hell, I had that line of illogic tossed at me in a Fark thread over the weekend, attached to a story about French women pointing out the rape-denying attitude of the French press and commentariat.

    Presumption of innocence is not an exclusive state; it’s really about ensuring a null assumption of responsibility for all individuals involved going into the investigative and trial process, and it’s actually the state all individuals share, by default*, until the accused individual is proven guilty at trial. The unfortunate, Manichaean assumption being made by too many individuals — that if one person is presumed innocent, others must be presumed guilty — is potentially a result of miseducation. A class in basic logic should really be required in late primary school, instead of merely being a secondary component of mathematics or science in secondary school.

    * There’s a completely off-topic problem with laws being passed that assume an individual is guilty until they prove themselves innocent in non-adjudicated matters, such as alleged copyright violation under the DMCA, but that’s another discussion for another day.

  15. Jim
    Jim May 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: K. In practice, that exact thought process happens. I’ve personally experienced being told that many times. Maybe you should go tell victim-blamers and not me.

    I agree with ever point you make, including having me go tell the victim-blamers. That exact process does happen, and it’s contemptible. I don’t need to tell you because you already understand.

    CBrachyrhynchos: Meanwhile, that standard only applies to legal proceedings. The rest of the world is free to make their own decisions about whether to treat DSK as a rapist based on a lower standard of evidence.

    Well yes; the rest of the world is the public, mostly packs of howling animals who only pay attention to these things as a form of entertainment. That’s humanity. That’s why we need these seemingly unjust procedural devices; to protect us all from being on the wrong side of a mob.

    CBrachyrhynchos: Jim: Except that the burden of proof isn’t a single hurdle that’s determined in a jury trial. The DA and accuser already met one hurdle at the first hearing. At that point, a judge deemed the charges credible enough to take a plea and demanded house arrest and 1 million dollars in bail.

    Very good point. Like I said, in this case the presumption is a procedural device being observed mainly to preserve it for other cases where it actually matters. I do not know how he can possibly be innocent.

    Something else – DSK could very well be the target of some conspiracy. He was supposedly a reformer at the IMF and had made enemies. So what? What does that have to do with this? What kind of conspiracy could induce him to commit this crime?

    And what could the woman have gained form any of this – from having consensual sex or from making a false accusation – what did she stand to gain from any of those scenarios? None of them offered her anything to gain, whereas making the accusation sttod to harm her substantially, an assertion against interest. And her story hangs together very well; it probably cannot have happened any other way. So every detail of her accusation makes sense – the imprisonment in the room and all the rest.

    chava: AFAIK, part of this is about the French ideal that ANY accused person must be presumed innocent, which for them extends to things like no photos of the accused in handcuffs, no perp walks, etc–nothing that creates a presumption of guilt in the public eye.

    This doesn’t wash. That’s not the Napoleonic system that I have heard about, where the magistrate is charged with the running the investigation, where the presumption is that they wouldn’t bother with you unless they had a damned good reason so you must be guilty to merit the attention, and where the fiction of the majesty of the law as an expression of la justice untainted by pandering to the vulgar demands of the mob is an article of faith, so that it matters not at all how the perp is perceived. it’s not as if there is a jury pool to taint under that system, is there?

    I think that’s a dodge in fact. I think the protests about DSK’s treatment sound a lot more like the protests about the legal treatment of pedophile priests that we heard from that little abomination, whats-is-name, something Spanish, in the Vatican, about affronts to the dignity of the office. It’s simple, cultural Roman authoritarianism, which seems to infect even the left in France.

  16. Jim
    Jim May 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: K. In practice, that exact thought process happens. I’ve personally experienced being told that many times. Maybe you should go tell victim-blamers and not me.

    I agree with ever point you make, including having me go tell the victim-blamers. That exact process does happen, and it’s contemptible. I don’t need to tell you because you already understand.

    CBrachyrhynchos: Meanwhile, that standard only applies to legal proceedings. The rest of the world is free to make their own decisions about whether to treat DSK as a rapist based on a lower standard of evidence.

    Well yes; the rest of the world is the public, mostly packs of howling animals who only pay attention to these things as a form of entertainment. That’s humanity. That’s why we need these seemingly unjust procedural devices; to protect us all from being on the wrong side of a mob.

    CBrachyrhynchos: Jim: Except that the burden of proof isn’t a single hurdle that’s determined in a jury trial. The DA and accuser already met one hurdle at the first hearing. At that point, a judge deemed the charges credible enough to take a plea and demanded house arrest and 1 million dollars in bail.

    Very good point. Like I said, in this case the presumption is a procedural device being observed mainly to preserve it for other cases where it actually matters. I do not know how he can possibly be innocent.

    Something else – DSK could very well be the target of some conspiracy. He was supposedly a reformer at the IMF and had made enemies. So what? What does that have to do with this? What kind of conspiracy could induce him to commit this crime?

    And what could the woman have gained form any of this – from having consensual sex or from making a false accusation – what did she stand to gain from any of those scenarios? None of them offered her anything to gain, whereas making the accusation sttod to harm her substantially, an assertion against interest. And her story hangs together very well; it probably cannot have happened any other way. So every detail of her accusation makes sense – the imprisonment in the room and all the rest.

    chava: AFAIK, part of this is about the French ideal that ANY accused person must be presumed innocent, which for them extends to things like no photos of the accused in handcuffs, no perp walks, etc–nothing that creates a presumption of guilt in the public eye.

    This doesn’t wash. That’s not the Napoleonic system that I have heard about, where the magistrate is charged with the running the investigation, where the presumption is that they wouldn’t bother with you unless they had a damned good reason so you must be guilty to merit the attention, and where the fiction of the majesty of the law as an expression of la justice untainted by pandering to the vulgar demands of the mob is an article of faith, so that it matters not at all how the perp is perceived. it’s not as if there is a jury pool to taint under that system, is there?

    I think that’s a dodge in fact. I think the protests about DSK’s treatment sound a lot more like the protests about the legal treatment of pedophile priests that we heard from that little abomination, whats-is-name, something Spanish, in the Vatican, about affronts to the dignity of the office. It’s simple, cultural Roman authoritarianism, which seems to infect even the left in France.

    Sheelzebub: ZOMG RICH WHITE LEFTY D00DS ARE NOT CAPABLE OF RAPING ‘CHAMBERMAIDS’ that housekeeping staff is actually pretty vulnerable to this shit.

    Not only are hotel staff especially vulnerable, but rich dudes (and they hardly need to be white – they can be Arab or Japanese or Chinese) are especially prone to harbor the attitudes that tend toward rape. It’s called droit du seigneur, and in these degenerate times even people who are nobody’s lord feel entitled to it.

  17. Baby Tigers Are Adorable/Terrifying: Links « Kay Steiger

    [...] Why is concern for the victim strangely absent from coverage of the alleged DSK rape? [Feministe] [...]

  18. felixbc
    felixbc May 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm |

    Thanks for writing about this so clearly.

    The part about “This rather alarming tendency to ignore things like — the fact that rape is not a good thing — also manifests itself in the idea that this shouldn’t be covered because it is a matter of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s “private life” strikes me as alarming, too.

    In the last local elections where I live, one of the candidates was convicted (not just accused, mind you) and served time for molesting a 16-year old. The candidate when interviewed said he couldn’t understand why a few people kept bringing that up–it was something that had happened in his “personal life” and he was “over it”. I corresponded with him in an online public forum, and he still didn’t get it–it’s not his personal life, it’s a crime, and therefore public, and not about him. This kind of willful blindness strikes me as someone who is likely to reoffend, because he has no clue about the actual nature of the offense.

    And yet, here are people claiming that DSK should be allowed his privacy–the victim’s existence gets erased, indeed.

  19. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig May 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm |

    Dude’ll walk, I’m sure of it. I do feel bad for the victim. I wish she could get justice, but I also know that that’s really unlikely.

  20. Butch Cassidyke
    Butch Cassidyke May 24, 2011 at 10:13 pm |

    Concerning presomption of innocence, I find it interesting to note that, while there are some laws concerning newspapers and television and so on, it’s not really always applied in everyday conversation. E.g., in “leftist” circles, when a big politician is suspected of corruption, there are not that much of precautions to respect his “presomption of innocence”. But, strangely, when you talk about rape, the same people explain that you must not talk before the trial and that he hasn’t been judged yet… And, more strangely again, while it’s not OK to say “rapist” instead of “suspect” in a conversation, it’s OK to imply that the woman is making false accusation even though there isn’t the slightest element for that…

  21. Theresa
    Theresa May 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

    Shades of the male establishment clustering around that poor, helpless widdle victim, Clarence Thomas.

  22. Feminizzle
    Feminizzle May 25, 2011 at 6:37 am |

    Thanks so much, Mounia, for this great analysis of French commentary! I’m in Paris and I’ve been getting more and more shocked with each passing day, from the invasion of the victim’s privacy, the shock and outrage presented at the American media/judicial system, and the disbelief that a white rich man in power just couldn’t, wouldn’t rape a poor black woman. Right. Just this morning in “Direct Matin” (the paper provided in the subway) an article was entitled “La Presse Americaine se Lache.” Not an analysis of evidence coming out or DSK’s reactions to the proceeding. Just a critique of American media showing DSK in handcuffs and openly talking about the possibility of guilt.

  23. lbxl
    lbxl May 25, 2011 at 7:25 am |

    Mrs Marine Le Pen you seem to despise :) is the only one actually who had openly said she had thought the first day about the presumed victim.

    see her last speech about violence on women with eng sub

    http://blip.tv/front-national/final_mpeg4_001-5195177

    many french female journalists or politicans had a very strange attitude if not incredible comments in the first days to analysze, minimize or understand “DSk”… you should open your eyes
    beeing said “far right” in France is not even beeing on the right side of the democratic party in the US…

  24. Jim
    Jim May 25, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    Butch Cassidyke: Concerning presomption of innocence, I find it interesting to note that, while there are some laws concerning newspapers and television and so on, it’s not really always applied in everyday conversation.

    Well why would it? It’s not some moral law, it’s just a legla device. People are going to form thier own opinions on whatever basis they like. some people are more careful, some less. The point is that it doesn’t matter if those opinions don’t have any force to harm the accsued, the way a court verdict might. So there’s nothing wrong with people deciding he’s guilty before the trail.

    And frankly I am finding it hard to suspend judgemet anymore. I don’t need court testimony to establish the truth of the facts we already know, and they are pretty conclusive to my mind.

  25. chava
    chava May 25, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    Here is the link I was looking for earlier:

    http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2011/05/20/affaire-dsk-oui-il-faut-prendre-au-serieux-la-femme-victime_1524815_3232.html

    “Les hommes et femmes politiques français(es), ainsi que les médias, ont répété à l’envi que Dominique Strauss-Kahn était “présumé innocent”. Peu ont cru bon de préciser que la femme de chambre était, elle, “présumée victime”. Jusqu’à preuve du contraire, et même si c’est un exercice difficile, on doit les croire tous les deux.”

    @ Jim–really? You don’t think that there’s a possibility a different legal system handles how it treats accused criminals, well, *differently*? Not to say that there isn’t a whole lot of sexism and racism going on AS WELL.

  26. Hind
    Hind May 28, 2011 at 7:43 am |

    Dear Mounia,
    I congratulate you for this article,
    realy well done and humam rights or womem rights promoting,
    We realize that there is still a lot to do for gender quality.
    I think that this DSK case may be a good think for gender equality at the end, because it brings the subject of sex harassment and rape on the table. Finaly, we have to have this dabate in other to clarify some concepts you were refering to in your article : does women’s body matters facing strong polical men ?
    best regards,
    Hind a good friend to Latifa

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