The Cautionary Tale of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Understanding the collapsing case against the former I.M.F. chief

A few days after then-International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York, a men's rights activist contacted me for advice on a campaign to raise awareness of false allegations of rape. I emailed back, "I'm not sure the timing is good, given the very high visibility of the Strauss-Kahn case (which seems genuine to me, though of course one never knows) and the extremely negative reaction, across the political spectrum, to his defenders' attempt to impugn the accuser's credibility." Just over a month later, the case against "DSK", as the economist and politician is known in France, seems to lie in a shambles—and nearly everyone who weighed in on the story early on may be up for a generous helping of crow.

The story was about much more than the particulars of one sexual assault case. When several prominent French intellectuals decried Strauss-Kahn's very public arrest as an outrage, the general American response was self-congratulatory. There was much praise for the American justice system in which a lowly chambermaid can be taken seriously when she complains of abuse by a rich and powerful man. There was also sharp criticism of French culture's backwardness in gender relations: the tendency to tolerate male sexual misconduct—including Strauss-Kahn's known history of aggressive unwanted advances toward women—and to see women as fair game for such behavior.

It was also reported that DSK's legal woes had triggered a much-needed feminist soul-searching in France. Perhaps the ignominious collapse of the case should occasion some soul-searching among Americans.

We may never know what happened in that hotel room between Strauss-Kahn and his accuser. There are many conflicting and confusing reports, including claims—vigorously disputed by the woman and her attorneys—that she had previously engaged in prostitution and continued to do so at the hotel where the prosecutors put her up. Yet at the very least, the new revelations cast doubt not only on the woman's general credibility but on her allegations. It seems that she did not, as she had claimed, hide until Strauss-Kahn had left and then report the alleged attack to a supervisor, but cleaned Strauss-Kahn's room and the adjoining suite. The next day, she was recorded in a telephone conversation with a jailed drug dealer, bragging about the money she could collect by pursuing charges.

In the admirable effort to ensure justice for rape victims—who have, historically, often faced demeaning treatment by the legal system—we have gone to the other extreme of embracing the dogma that women don't lie about rape. But some do, for various motives, from financial gain to revenge to mental illness. To acknowledge this is not misogynistic, just as it is not anti-male to acknowledge that some men rape women. Estimates of the prevalence of false reports vary widely, but the consensus is that they involve more than a tiny percentage of rape complaints.

If, as seems likely, the charges against Strauss-Kahn are dismissed, one could argue that the system has worked. But that discounts the damage of a false accusation, particularly when the accused is publicly paraded as a criminal. At least, with Strauss-Kahn, the story is big enough for the exoneration to be equally public. That is not always true.

In 1997, a New York entrepreneur, Paul Krauth, was charged with raping a woman he had met after an online correspondence. His arrest was reported on the front page of the Metro section of The New York Times, with a photo of Krauth in handcuffs. Then, a few days later, the charges were dropped after it turned out that the "victim" had left a message on his answering machine thanking him for a wonderful evening. The dismissal merited a small item inside the paper. The woman's name was not released.

Even today, sympathy for Strauss-Kahn is in short supply. (Of course, he has the bad luck of being a perfect villain for both left and right: a privileged male and an elitist French socialist intellectual.) Many point out that even the defense version—that the maid targeted Strauss-Kahn after he refused to pay her for a sexual act—paints him in a fairly unattractive light: he is still a married man who cheated on his wife, and a wealthy and powerful man who mistreated a poor woman.

This echoes comments made several years ago after the collapse of the headline-making rape case against three Duke University athletes accused of assaulting a stripper at a team party. When the young men were cleared, with the evidence strongly indicating that the woman's claim was a deliberate hoax, some feminists argued that they still deserved condemnation for hiring strippers in the first place. But this attitude is a troubling reversal of traditional prejudices under which rape victims found little sympathy if they were not paragons of virtue. A woman who is raped is a victim even if she is promiscuous. So is a falsely accused man even if he is a pig—or a French socialist.

By all accounts, attitudes toward sexual assault and harassment in France do need to change. But in this case, the American way is less a role model than a cautionary tale.

Cathy Young is a columnist at RealClearPolitics and a contributing editor at Reason magazine. This article originally appeared at RealClearPolitics.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Lynch Mob||

    WE'RE ENTITLED TO OUR OPINIONS!

  • SIV||

    For the record: I only proposed lynching DS-K for his known crime of IMFing. His guilt on that count is without doubt. No need to let the necktie go to waste...

  • ||

    Does your whining come naturally or is it a thinly veiled attempt to hide the fact that your mind is vapid and you are unable to contribute anything of substance?

  • Sudden||

    Cathy Young MNG weights in on the....

  • Bugs Bunny||

    The case against "DSK"...seems to lie in a shambles—and nearly everyone who weighed in on the story early on may be up for a generous helping of crow.

    Her not know libertarians very well, do her?

  • Walter||

    That sounds more like tweety pie

  • ||

    On a related, but completely irrelevant topic, have people seen photos of the French writer (Tristane Banon) who is accusing DSK of rape?

  • Almanian||

    Not familiar with her

    *Google*

    Kind of Euro-unattractive. Euro-skinny (like), but the face...mmmnngngg...she lookah lykah man.

    /Miss Swan

  • ||

    Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

    http://www.dna.fr/fr/france/in.....CONTRE-DSK

  • mike c||

    Way do-able. A little skinny.

  • Almanian||

    Mais, bien sur. Pour moi, le nez, c'est trop...trop pince'.

  • ||

    She's cute. I don't know where Alamanian gets the look like a man idea, though points for a Miss Swan reference.

  • Hugh Akston||

    For some reason, everything Almanian wants to have sex with "looks like a man."

    NTTAWWT

  • ||

    Wait, I thought he was a vegisexual?

  • Bingo||

    Damn, she's about as perfect as a Western Euro chick gets. Ya'll are crazy.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I always thought it was beauty is in the eye of the beerholder. She's a pretty girl.

  • ||

    I agree; my "beauty in the eye..." was directed at Alamanian's original "looks like a man."

  • SIV||

    Needs thigh-hi boots

  • rural progressive||

    Not guilty. Still seems like an asshole though. Is wrong to cheer for bad things to happen to someone like this?

  • Nice Drunk||

    Is schadenfreude wrong? Only if you're an adult.

  • Almanian||

    Just want to remind everyone - "VICTIMS" NEVER LIE! NEVER!

    MALE HEGEMONY! MISOGYNY! MERETRICIOUS MEN! MOAR BAD MANSZZ!

    "...these are words with an 'M' this time..."

    /Weird Feministing/King Crimson Composite

  • Whappan?||

    You forgot MALE GAZE!!!

  • Bingo||

    I've male-gazed about 4 chicks today. U mad feminists?

  • Chupacabra||

    I male-glazed one chick today.

    Booyah!

  • ||

    Huh, 4? Are u gay.

    I fucking male gazed 40 women today. And I haven't even begun street harassing (telling them they are hot) them yet. Just you wait. I might even ask a girl in an elevator to get a coffee with me.

  • Bingo||

    Only counts as a male-gaze success if you get smiles or grins in return from the female enduring the "subjugation." Real womyn would not do such a thing.

    And I bet 40 women haven't given you any such thing.

  • Duke Lacrosse Team||

    Oh, we learned our lesson! Even though we didn't fuck that stupid cunt...

  • ||

    same who has recently been indicted for MURDER! and it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. few people are more odious than those who play victim and make false rape allegations. they hide behind rape shield laws while forcing the suspects into the public eye where dipshits ASSUME they are guilty, they often don't even get charged for the false complaints (mangum didn't), etc.

  • Lynch Mob||

    This is a forum!
    WE'RE ENTITLED TO OUR OPINIONS!

  • Belew||

    Elephant Talk? ELEPHANT TALK?

  • ||

    I knew he was innocent from the first moment I heard thick cockamamie story.

    I've said this before and I'll repeat: as a general rule, you can't go wrong assuming any high profile rape claim is false.

  • Kobe||

    Solid

  • Roman Polanski||

    She was not....unresponsive...

  • Mike Tyson||

    I don't know if I feel ecstatic or ludricrous

  • Ludracris||

    Back off, mofo.

  • ||

    Mike Tyson in all likelyhood was innocent, look at that case again if you will

  • Ben Roethlisberger||

    Damn straight.

  • Fire Tiger||

    huu huu huu, you said thick cock

  • Almanian||

    US WOMAN BEAT FRANCE IN SOCCER!

    In other news no one gives a shit about....

  • ||

    The Brazil game was pretty fun to watch. Women don't play a bad brand of the game. It is fun to watch every four years. And it is the deadest week of the sports calender and a few of the players are really hot (Hope Solo is totally doable), so what the hell.

  • ||

    I still say he's guilty.
    Probably the only way this woman could get a US visa was to make up a story that would get her political asylum. And it's hardly impossible to understand why she would try to maintain that story to the police.

  • CE||

    Where's the Reason article on the upcoming Carmageddon (when the govt shuts down the only westside north-south freeway in LA for the entire weekend to install a new carpool lane)?????

  • Ummmm||

    They're actually tearing down a bridge.

  • ||

    My understanding (and, hey, I wasn't following the story with baited breath) was than the New York police only got rude when it appeared that the suspect was attempting to flee their jurisdiction. If one (or more) of the Duke Lacrosse Players had bolted, I would have been a LOT less sympathetic for a lot longer.

    And, seriously, if the French have a complaint about how their Elite functionary was snatched off of his plane, then they can seek an extradition treaty with us, and stop pretending that we are barbarians for wanting the likes of Ira Einhorn and Roman Polansky to face justice.

  • Uh, no||

    baited breath

  • ||

    the duke lacrosse players (the case was pretty obviously questionable from the beginning. it STUNK of 'false rape complaint" something i have dealt with myself as an investigator) bent over backwards to cooperate with the prosecutor (that asshole ) and that's what innocent not guilty people tend to do

  • ||

    During the Duke Lacrosse case the mother of one of the boys stated that the prosecutor had "messed with the wrong families". She was right. The boy's families had the money to hire two very big legal gunslingers who were able to handle the case. If the boys had been born of poor families, does anyone doubt they'd still be in prison.

  • ||

    yes, i doubt it. this case was a loser from the beginning, as became apparent to anybody with ANY investigative experience. heck, one of the kids had a near rock solid alibi (and not witness, but physical evidence based), the witness was a complete loon, etc.

    the lawyer helped get this case thrown out , etc. but their status actually HURT them in the fact that every leftwinger in the country reflexively assumed they were guilty and put political pressure on the prosecutor to seek prosecution on an OBVIOUSLY weak as fuck case.

  • ||

    A seemingly trivial observation has bothered me. Why was the 62 year old person, handcuffed, in the glare of cameras and in the most material way "with nowhere to go", held by a police officer as he walked? I had the same question when I saw pictures of Madoff being led that way.

    It looks demeaning. Is it a part of police book to subtly take away the dignity of the accused, who is struggling to retain what ever little remains after the very public accusation and indictment process.

  • ||

    It is part of the prosecutor's book, as it strengthens the prosecution in the media and popular opinion. Prosecutors can make their political careers on cases like this, and they know it.

  • ||

    They can make their careers even if they fuck it up. Look at Marcia Clark.

  • ||

    I thought her career tanked after she blew the OJ case.

    -jcr

  • Number 2||

    She got her own talk show on MSNBC and became a media star for a year or so after losing the OJ trial. For a third-rate career assistant prosecutor, that's a home run.

  • cynical||

    Given that public humiliation used to be a sentence, I'd argue that it's just extrajudicial punishment.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Seems to me if they set their spam filter to look for buzzsave.com it would work a lot better than the random stuff they do now.

  • The Third Party||

    Reason can't help it! It's a "third-party" spam filter. They are not to blame!

  • LP||

    It's a "third-party" spam filter.

    Don't blame me!

  • The Third Party||

    You wish!
    You're like, a ninth party. With flat beer and stale chips. And a stripper with a mustache and lopsided boobs for entertainment.

  • Mabal Zahare||

    +1

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Irony twice in two minutes: I saw an Obama 2012 ad on the homepage, and then, with this story, I saw an ad for reputation.com

  • Fire Tiger||

    As always, does anyone really give a fuck what happens to the french?

  • the french||

    May we?

  • ||

    http://www.politico.com/news/s.....58942.html

    Debt talks have blown up. This is an interesting quote

    Democrats saw it differently and portrayed the aggressive House Republican leader as badgering Obama through the meeting until the president dressed him down. “He lit up Eric Cantor like he’s never been lit up,” said one Democrat who described Obama as telling the Republican leader that he would veto any short term bill that Cantor sends him.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/s.....z1S2Sr07Qh

    Even if that is true, Obama is a stupid jackass. What good does it do to piss off the people you will have to make a deal with?

  • Nancy Pelosi||

    What good does it do to piss off the people you will have to make a deal with?

    Are you serious?

  • ||

    “He lit up Eric Cantor like he’s never been lit up,” said one Democrat

    Why do I doubt that?

    Would that be the same President who was begging Eric Cantor not to call his bluff?

  • ||

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a socialist slimebag who--at best--sees dirt poor immigrant cleaning ladies as potential sexual partners.

    No one need eat crow for taking an accusation with physical evidence seriously--as the suspect was trying to board an international flight.

    Fer cryin' out loud!

  • ||

    Ken, you're a moron. Cum can be deposited by force, or consent. The fact that it's there doesn't say either way. And he had a prescheduled flight to catch. That's not fleeing, it's making your bird.

    Stoooopid is you.

  • Crow||

    Three words you'll never hear a libertarian say:
    I was wrong.

  • ||

    Oh I've said I was wrong here on Hit & Run dozens of times.

    But I'm not wrong about this one.

    The man may or may not be guilty of sexual assault--but we've got him dead to rights being a jackhole.

    Just because he may not be guilty of a crime--doesn't mean he's not guilty of being a jackhole.

    And socialist politicians who go around taking advantage of poor as dirt, immigrant cleaning ladies as sexual partners?

    They're ALL grade A jackholes!

    Every one.

  • Mabal Zahare||

    commie

  • ||

    "Three words you'll never hear a libertarian say:
    I was wrong."

    Just for the record, I think I've admitted I was wrong twice in the last 24 hours--right here at Hit & Run.

    1) http://reason.com/blog/2011/07.....nt_2391540

    2) http://reason.com/blog/2011/07.....nt_2389674

    If you want to get technical, I said "Thank you!" or "Thanks!" rather than "I was wrong", but in both cases I was thanking somebody for pointing out where I was wrong--which is even better than admitting I was wrong.

  • ||

    Actually, now that I think of it, it wasn't twice in the last 24 hours--it was more like twice in the last 48...

    ...which means:

    3) I was wrong again.

  • ||

    "dirt poor immigrant cleaning ladies as potential sexual partners."

    Yes because obviously cleaning ladies are pure trash who no one should ever even think of having sex with. No we should all be having sex with empowered, educated independent, materialistic bitches like the ones on Sluts in the City.

  • ||

    You don't see any contradiction in someone standing up by way of socialism for the downtrodden--who are supposedly getting screwed by the man...

    ...and screwing any random immigrant cleaning lady that happens to wander into the room?

    Did he even leave a tip, I wonder?

    Why not fuck the poor immigrant cleaning lady? I'm supposed to accept that attitude as something other than pure jackholery?!

    The man is pond scum. Even if everything he's saying is true--he's still a slime dog.

  • HUh||

    Some men see women as women, not as walking specimens of a special political class.

  • ||

    correct. and the issue is not "is he pond scum". larry flynt is pond scum, but he was still rightfully exonerated in his case because he had the 1st amendment protections we all enjoy in the US, for example.

    just because somebody is a scumbag doesn't mean they are guilty of a crime alleged.

    and what the hell does being a socialist have to do with the idea that he shouldn't fuck a maid? heck, socialists are supposed to (laughable i know) ignore class and believe we are all in the same boat as labor vs. evil management. iow, he would be theoretically sympatico with her.

    not that people don't join political movements for the wimmins to schtup. pj orourke has commented on this with alleged radicals who just joined up to fuck hippie chix.

  • Number 2||

    Interesting way of demonstrating class solidarity, one might say.

  • ||

    "and the issue is not "is he pond scum". larry flynt is pond scum, but he was still rightfully exonerated in his case because he had the 1st amendment protections we all enjoy in the US, for example."

    Maybe that's the source of confusion...

    YOUR issue isn't whether he's pond scum.

    MY issue IS whether he's pond scum.

    You're right, by the way. Larry Flynt may not be guilty of any crime anywhere--that doesn't me he isn't a jackhole.

    And when more libertarians find it easier to say to the American people--that just because someone is a disgusting, useless, vile human being? Doesn't mean he doesn't have rights? The more influence libertarians will have with the American people...

    Just because I stand up for MY rights--doesn't mean I have stand up for the disgusting, worthless human beings of this world. The reason I stand up for Larry Flynt's rights isn't because I give a rip about Larry Flynt--it's because I care about MY rights. I have a right to freedom of expression--and just because Larry Flynt is a disgusting human being--that doesn't mean I want MY free expression rights circumscribed by the government...

    Just because I care about my rights? Is not a reason to defend a scumbag socialist like Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Were Dominique Strauss-Kahn's rights violated?! How?

    Does Dominique Strauss-Kahn have a right to not be accused of sexual assault by virtue of his wealth and social status?

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a scumbag for what he did--even assuming he didn't sexually assault that woman! And just because I believe in all the rights anyone else in this thread believes in--doesn't mean I have to be so stupid or pathetic to defend him.

    I doubt there's any reason to send him to prison over this--but that doesn't mean he isn't a scumbag. Hell, I've stood up for the rights of terrorists not to be tortured--regardless of what the Geneva Conventions said--you think I give a crap about the terrorists? You imagine I was standing up for the rights of terrorists? They're all scumbags!

    Those were my rights I was standing up for--not some dirtbag terrorist's. Anybody who stands up for dirtbag terrorists should be ashamed of themselves. Stand up for your own rights! Anybody who defends a dirtbag socialist scumbag like Dominique Strauss-Kahn? Is making themselves too damn easy to be misled into defending ANYTHING.

  • Mabal Zahare||

    Accused & arrested not the same thing (add public perp walk). Kind of falls under "cruel & unusual punishment" don't you agree?

  • ||

    We've been stamping people with scarlet letters since the pilgrims landed--but making people do the perp walk is certainly in poor taste. It's like putting them in stockades.

    And there can be a price to pay for doing that--and the prosecutors appear to be paying that price right now.

    None of which makes DSK any less reptilian.

  • ||

    IF all he did was have consensual sex with the cleaning lady, I can't see how that makes him a scumbag. Maybe he uses his status as aphrodisiac, like anybody else w/ a dick and a marketable trait.

    Granted it is weird seeing Euro-leftists basically assume "black bitch is a lyin' ho" from the start, then be rewarded for their assumption. If Netanyahu got fingered by a swarthy daughter of Allah...

  • ||

    He coerced a junior employee at the IMF into a sexual affair with him. So it's apparent that he gets off on power disparities.

  • ||

    There is a very large gap between pressuring a subordinate into sex, and forcible rape.

    I despise DSK, but c'mon.

  • ||

    I'm right there with you, RC Dean.

    I'm just putting the emphasis somewhere different.

    I'm saying, "He probably can't be convicted for sexual assault, but--c'mon! I despise DSK."

    Just because the man probably shouldn't be convicted of anything doesn't mean he isn't a scumbag. There's a whole world of scumbag activity out there--that shouldn't be prosecuted. That doesn't mean it isn't scumbag behavior.

    Just because I'm a libertarian defender of individual rights--doesn't mean I have to pretend scumbag behavior isn't scumbag behavior.

    Libertarianism isn't a cult.

  • new running shoes||

    If, as seems likely, the charges against Strauss-Kahn are dismissed, one could argue that the system has worked. Nike Air Max Trainer 1

  • NotSure||

    The guy is a slime ball, for those who heard of DSK before the scandal, it was not a secret what a slime ball he was. He is the stereotypical latte socialist, living a better life than most of the capitalists he attacks.

  • Lynch Mob||

    NotSure|5.15.11 @ 5:58AM
    Perhaps he goes to one of those American prisons where he will get sodomized by some big black guy. Justice for this socialist slime ball cannot come too soon.

    NotSure|5.15.11 @ 6:32AM|#
    You are right real justice would be that they first tattoo "Bubbas Bitch" on his arse and then prison rape him.

    You're our hero!

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    Evidently feminists reserve the right to deduce a man's guilt from their dogmas.

  • ||

    i don't even have to click on the link to bring up cases like bill clinton, etc.

  • ||

    I dont believe the new reports that have suddenly come out 45 days after the incident- heres why
    1) there was seeman on the wall which
    was dsk's- that is indisputable-
    2) there is physical evidence of forced
    sexual contact on the accusers body
    3) if she is a prostitute why would she
    be working as a maid?
    4) why havent they released the recording of the so called conversation
    that supposedly took place between the accused and her boyfriend?
    5) why did the prosecution say that her
    story sounded very credible one day
    after the incident and now they have
    completely changed their tune?
    6) why did strauss khan leave his cell phone in the room?
    7) what about the prior documented
    accusations against strauss khan by
    a french reporter?
    8) all of a sudden they say there was
    100k placed in her bank account-
    if she has access to that kind of money why is she working as a maid for
    minimum wage?
    9) they say she lied on her application
    to get into america- hell who wouldnt lie to get the hell out of a
    living hell in guyana? I sure would

  • nike shoes||

    is good

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