Standard question in victim-blaming is ‘what was she doing there alone?’ It’s made me kind of crazy to see that applied to a maid whose job it is to go into rooms and clean them. When I first heard this awful crime story– and my sense is that it’s a crime that happens to be so politically entangled that smart people can’t think straight– I noticed the time it was reported.
A hotel or motel around noon can be pretty quiet. I don’t know the checkout and arrival times at the Sofitel, but usually guests follow the rules so they don’t get charged an extra day, and staff does most of the maintenance around mid-day. People don’t book a hotel room to sit around in it. They’re tourists, or working, or on their way somewhere.
One question I have is what the suite looks like. Writer Wendy Kaminer answers that basic question, and debunks some of the dumber statements going around…
Bernard-Henri Levy asks “how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a ‘cleaning brigade’ of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.” Ben Stein can’t understand how an unarmed man might “force” a woman to have oral sex, adding that Strauss-Kahn was “in a hotel with people passing by the room constantly.”
Well, the Sofitel is a good hotel but not quite a grand one (it’s not the Four Seasons or the Mandarin) and, as a regular guest there, I can attest that it is not common practice to send a “cleaning brigade” into the room (although fortunately, I am not among the “most-watched figures on the planet.”) Having spent a night in the same suite or a similar one occupied by Strauss-Kahn (it was complimentary, the hotel was overbooked), I can also attest that people are not “passing by constantly.” In fact, virtually no one passes by. The suite is at the end of a hall, and it is expansive, with a foyer, large living room, bedroom, and a long hallway between bedroom and master bath. A maid might easily knock loudly without being heard, enter in the belief that no one was home, and find herself trapped.
It helps to have some facts. Another fact is that the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit that is used in the state of Rhode Island includes a set of swabs to be used for oral DNA collection. If this kind of assault was so implausible, why is there a written procedure for evidence collection?
I appreciate Wendy Kaminer’s post, though I think she under-estimates the personal cost the victim is suffering for her testimony. She has had to leave her job and apartment and go into hiding with her teenage daughter. Any friendships and connections she has made since coming to the US are disrupted, her daughter can’t safely go to school. She is already been named and accused of being foolhardy, a prostitute and other things. She will have to face the best lawyers money can buy. She has been described as a shy, devout woman who came to the US as a refugee.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, if innocent, has been terribly wronged. But I think the facts will work against him. I’m grateful that Wendy Kaminer has applied some firsthand reporting and cleared away some of the nonsense and speculation.