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When Women Are Abused: Dominique Strauss-Kahn's Shadow of Shame

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Hundreds of thousands of dollars later Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his wife Anne Sinclair, and his lawyers are rejoicing at what an August 24th New York Times headline called a "Quick and Quiet End to the Strauss-Kahn Case." Perhaps this group should hold the champagne...

Meanwhile Manhattan DA, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. is being blasted on several fronts: DSK supporters say he humiliated DSK unnecessarily by immediately handcuffing him publicly and sending him to jail, initially denying bail. Many feminists say that because the Manhattan Sofitel hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo who accused him of rape has been discredited as an unreliable witness, others sexually violated will fear coming forward. Meanwhile Diallo's attorney and other supporters accuse the DA of caving in to power, claiming that his decision deprived all of us as knowing the whole truth. Perhaps this entire group should stand back a little...

For there is no "quick and quiet end" to this case. Its ripples will never end. And the Manhattan DA is a brave and decent man, as well as a fine attorney, The "activities" of DSK at the Sofitel, along with the recent documented hubris of other rich and powerful men, has contributed to the beginning of entirely different view about compulsive sexual conquests that many men world wide have considered their due. Such "conquests" are beginning to be viewed, not as enticing virility and sophistication -- as they have in the past -- but instead as what they really are -- sleaze, abuse, and violation.

DA Vance should be applauded loudly. For far too many years, women have been shamed and blamed, when brave enough to come forward to say they had been sexually violated.
The sickening misogynistic attitude prevailed: When a woman is violated, she has asked for it, and has even enjoyed it.

This DA refused to participate in this common 'blame the victim, protect the perp' injustice. Fame, privilege and wealth did not deter him from doing all he could to protect a woman believed to be vulnerable and victimized. Then he and his highly accomplished team learned that Diallo's story was riddled with lies and inconsistencies. She had never been gang raped in Guinea, nor was gang rape mentioned in her asylum papers, as she had told them. In addition, there was her call to her boyfriend in the Arizona prison, where she told him, "Don't worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I'm doing." Though hospital examination revealed sperm, how could it be proven that sex was not consensual? How could a DA ask a jury to believe a witness beyond a reasonable doubt who had so convincingly lied to him? In this circumstance, how could the truth ever be validated? Vance again did what was appropriate and fair. He dropped his charges.

This three-month saga will not frighten women who are abused and violated from coming forward. On the contrary, it is already strengthening them. Their support and understanding of what abuse is increases daily, something that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has helped to come about. For although only DSK and Nafissatou Diallo really know what happened in the Sofitel suite, Strauss-Kahn has a history of a huge sense of entitlement to affairs and sexual gratification and power, which his wife, before this expensive public humiliation, has always handled with an "as long as he comes home and wants me" attitude. Such attempts at sophisticated rationalization way no longer fly, even in France. When DSK comes home he will face accusations by the French writer Tristane Banon that he attempted to rape her eight years ago. The climate has changed, and Ms. Banon knows it. When she is asked why she waited eight years to bring suit, she can truthfully say that until now too few would believe her or cared.

Some in France claim that the rape allegation was a plot of DSK's enemies to deny him the Presidency, and that he will once again emerge the strongest candidate for this office. Stranger things have happened.

Still, fame and fortune cannot protect Dominique Strauss-Kahn from an emerging reevaluation of the sense of sexual entitlement, regardless of how it is attained. For him how can sex be quite as sexy ever again? Wherever he walks, there will be a constant, relentless shadow following him. Its named is Shame and Humiliation.

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