Category Archives: Sexual Assault

“I Pray for Them” is Not Good Enough

Congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin has put a religious spin on his pseudo-science about women having some biological powers that protect them from getting pregnant if they are victims of ‘legitimate rape’. In an appeal to Christians who value forgiveness, he tries to distract from the plain meaning of his words, backed up by his actions in Congress. He has made a campaign commercial for the base…

“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”

Akin continues: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

I would ask Christians to consider that forgiveness doesn’t require voting this man back into Congress. I would ask them to consider that denying a woman emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after rape is respecting her life. Giving her compassion and praying for her is not enough.

Talking tough is not enough. We have a long history of justice denied for victims despite harsh laws. We have a long history of harsh laws being used to imprison innocent men. Rape has many victims, yes, and one casualty is our peace of mind. If the only answer is death to the rapist then society will refuse to prosecute the husband, the brother, the son. Rapists are not usually so outwardly criminal that they don’t have a circle of people who see them as ‘a nice guy’.

It’s an evil act, yes, and an ugly truth. As long as we cling to a past that separates the virtuous women from the impure, the ones whose humanity is lesser because they deserve it, we will give cover to crimes. Predators in society, like predators in the wild, choose the unprotected. It’s necessary to face facts we would rather bury, and defend the rights of people who make choices we would not make. It’s necessary because we are fighting a crime and putting a few individuals in prison is not the whole answer.

Promoting respect for women, because we are equal human beings, is the answer.

I wondered last night if I was making assumptions about Rep. Akin’s religious pandering. Today shows that he’s out there claiming the blessing of forgiveness to hang on to religious voters.

There’s a segment of the religious Right that dwells on forgiveness, but overlooks repentance. It’s like the Ted Haggards who get caught in immorality but think they can reclaim their pulpit and collection plate after a few expressions of remorse. It’s like the many religious groups who found it expedient to cover up sexual crimes in their own community while exhorting victims to ‘forgive’. Anything can be used as spin in politics.

Todd Akin does not intend to change his actions or votes against a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, or even to prevent conception after rape. But he has compassion and will pray for those people. He feels real sorry for them.

No woman wants to think that they will ever be in a situation where this will be personal. But if we let law for women be made by men who don’t know and don’t care about reality, and who confuse condescension and pity with respect, we will abandon the women who need real help and the standard of medical care.

Bible Verses for Todd Akin

‘Gaffe’, how did this Frenchified word get into American politics? We needed a way to point out that someone smart who has to meet the public and give speeches for months of sleep-deprived campaigning will inevitably say something regrettable.

Here are the Merriam-Webster dictionary examples of ‘gaffe’…

He realized that he had committed an awful gaffe when he mispronounced her name.
committed a huge gaffe when she started drinking from the finger bowl

A cynic joked that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. There are slips, Freudian slips, and entire detailed statements where it’s hard to interpret the words to be anything but what they mean. Congressman Todd Akin’s outrageous statement about rape, and the weird idea that an innocent woman can’t be made pregnant against her will isn’t an accident– it’s a belief with a history in our culture and roots in the more extreme corners of the religious right.

These kinds of beliefs provide cover for rapists who use intimidation and prey on the vulnerable. Tina Anderson was only 15 when she was raped and made pregnant by a much older man in her church.

Fifty-two-year-old Ernest Willis of Gilford apologised on Tuesday saying he was ‘sorry and ashamed for this thoughtless act of sexual misconduct.’
But he did not admit to forcibly raping the teenager.

Miss Anderson, now 29, told The Associated Press she felt vindicated.
She said she was never really believed that the sex was not consensual until a court found him guilty.

The teen was forced to face hundreds of churchgoers at Concord’s Trinity Baptist Church and say sorry for getting pregnant.

She said: ‘I felt completely humiliated. I felt like my life was over.’

The then-pastor of the New Hampshire church, Chuck Phelps, arranged for her to move in with a Baptist family in Colorado and place her infant daughter up for adoption.

She said she believed ‘for years’ what the church leaders had told her which was: ‘The rapes were her fault and she must learn to forgive and forget.’

During cross-examination Anderson lashed out at defence attorney Donna Brown for ‘badgering her’ about discrepancies in her recollection of the sequence of events that summer.

She said: ‘You cannot remember when you are 15-years-old and scared out of your mind. It doesn’t mean I was lying. I felt like my life was over.’

The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 22 20 gives instructions on when a husband may have his wife stoned to death for being unable to prove she was a virgin on their wedding night. The penalty for getting raped in the city is death, because presumably the woman failed to call for help.

Imagine a woman forced to drink poison because her husband suspects she has been impure. Numbers 5 23:29

23 ‘The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall [k]wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her [l]and cause bitterness. 25 The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar; 26 and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water. 27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her [m]and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will [n]waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive [o]children.

29 ‘This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the Lord, and the priest shall apply all this law to her. 31 Moreover, the man will be free from [p]guilt, but that woman shall bear her [q]guilt.’”

Imagine the terror that woman would feel, drinking the cursed, dirty water. This is what is known as an ordeal. If she gets sick from the dirt or the power of suggestion– well that proves it. No mention of how many times a husband can demand this ritual, as often as the spirit of jealousy calls to him apparently.

The net is full of better writers than this one, once again explaining that rape is a crime. Brave women are coming out and talking about their own survival. This reminds me of the periodic emergence of Roman Polanski from his European bunker, forcing the woman who survived his assault as a child to once again ask the press to please go away. It should not be necessary to refute these bad ideas over and over, but here we are.

The Republican Party may be racing to distance itself from Todd Akin’s remarks, but it’s important to know that they are not his alone, and do come from an important part of the Republican base. He’s not the first to pass judgment on who is ‘really raped’ and who deserved it. His real gaffe was to expose the contradictions between the wing of the GOP that will frankly say that they would force a woman to continue a pregnancy caused by rape, and the much more moderate American public. When you breach the consistent position that abortion is forbidden in any circumstance, you open the door to circumstantial morality. If you believe, as I do, that life is circumstantial and that there are many hard decisions that belong to the people most affected, you can live with grey areas.

What is contemptible about Todd Akin’s statements is that he won’t face the reality that a rapist is not usually a deranged man jumping out of the bushes. That’s why Ernest Willis was able to prey on a child in a church and engage the pastor in covering up his crime.

And as Black Max at Daily Kos points out, if you believe the pseudo-science that a woman’s body has some contraceptive powers against rape, pregnancy proves that she was asking for it. In the old days, like about fifty years ago, the forces of law and order would just disappear the girls to reform school.

It’s only different now because so many brave women spoke truth in the face of personal destruction. Their witness stands against obstinate ignorance. Like they say, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. If anyone presumes to represent the people, they have to face the consequences when they slander half the population.

AN AGENDA: Emergency contraception is the standard of medical care for victims of rape. Too often this standard is not kept because of a mistaken idea that emergency contraception is a form of abortion. The belief that any victim of a violent crime should have to prove themselves by showing visible injuries, and that only ‘forcible rape’ is real, and that a victim of ‘forcible rape’ can’t get pregnant supports the agenda of denying contraception even in the most dire circumstances.

Here’s more from CNN on Congressman Akin’s views…

Akin, a six-term U.S. congressman, touted his socially conservative values on the primary campaign trail.
He opposes abortion in all circumstances and has said he also opposes the morning after pill, which he equates to abortion.

Believing that no decent woman would ever find herself in an emergency room needing emergency contraception is necessary to make these views seem less than oppressive.

Standing With the Victim

Rei at Daily Kos says something that really needs to be said– A person can do lots of good things and still do something horrible. Julian Assange has won the admiration of many on the left for taking a stand against government secrecy with Wikileaks. At the same time, he is evading charges of rape.

It’s painful and disillusioning when someone we admire has another side. Or when someone who helped us wrongs someone else.

But not recognizing this aspect of human nature– the capability of doing both good and evil, allows the Jerry Sandusky’s to go undetected, and the Roman Polanskis to claim they are victims of conniving children.

A long article last year in the New York Times paints Assange as a complicated man with mixed motives. That article also links to other sources. How accurate the NYT is in the portrayal is under debate.

This is not to declare Assange innocent or guilty. He is doing his best to evade his day in court– which is where these charges belong. It’s not to weight whether his evasion is justified, given the political stakes.

It’s just a few words in support of Rei’s brave post, and in support of all those who are not believed because the perpetrator was above suspicion.

Originally posted on Therapy with Kiersten Marek, LICSW:

I wrote the following letter at the prompting of Stop it Now, a great organization that advocates for public education and action to prevent sexual abuse.  As a clinician who works with sexual abuse, it has been both horrifying and all too familiar to hear the testimony that has come out of this trial.  It seems clear that Sandusky’s actions were very pre-meditated and involved finding victims who would be less likely to speak out, such as the boys from The Second Mile.   This should be a wake-up call for all of us to be more vigilant and attentive to children, and to find ways to ask questions when things don’t seem right.  I was glad when the email came from Stop it Now, providing some samples of letters to send to the editors, and so this is mine.  I hope the Providence Journal publishes it.

Dear Editors,

View original 320 more words

Not Above the Law

This case needs a day in court–

Michael Appleton for The New York Times
A judge has rejected Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s claim of diplomatic immunity in his effort to dismiss a civil suit filed by a hotel housekeeper who claimed that the French leader had sexually assaulted her.

Justice Douglas E. McKeon of State Supreme Court in the Bronx characterized Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s attempt to claim diplomatic immunity as “his own version of a Hail Mary pass,” noting that he had resigned from his position as the head of the International Monetary Fund when the suit was filed.

Justice McKeon cited Nafissatou Diallo’s right to clear her name, and certainly the media trial was a poor substitute for justice.

Read the rest at The New York Times.

Talking Dirty to Ron Paul

Remember Dan Quayle? He was the vice-president for George Bush I who was cruelly and sometimes unfairly mocked in the press for being really dumb.

He did say things that were ignorant, and callous, too. Here is what he had to say about abortion in the case of rape…

“My position is that I understand from a medical situation, immediately after a rape is reported, that a woman normally, in fact, can go to the hospital and have a D and C. At that time… that is before the forming of a life. That is not anything to do with abortion.”

Vice President Dan Quayle explaining that Dilatation and Curettage, a form of abortion which occurs after fertilization, is not really abortion.
Reported in the Washington post, 11/03/88

Medically this is insane. A woman who has suffered a rape, possibly an exposure to a disease, will not stroll into the hospital to have her womb scraped out–(presumably to remove all the microscopic sperm that are striving to create the miracle of life.) In 1988 that woman would be lucky if she were even able to get competent and compassionate medical care at any random ER. The practice of the forensic exam for rape and medical treatment of victims is a recent development in women’s care.

You might not expect a politician whose greatest talent was looking good in a suit to be well-informed about these things, or especially concerned for victims of crime. But it really is frightening that Quayle’s statement was in the context of stating his opposition to legal abortion in all cases, and knowing that he had considerable power to influence policy that affects women’s lives. And knowing that he was so callously disinterested in those women that he never even bothered to find out what happens to a rape victim who seeks emergency help.

Legal abortion remains controversial. There are a range of opinions on when, or whether, it might be necessary for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. Surely an obstetrician, a man who puts his experience as a doctor front and forward as a reason to trust his judgement on matters related to the practice of health care in America– surely that man should speak with knowledge and compassion. Surely his experience in caring for thousands of women would put a face on the reality of sexual assault. Sadly, this crime is so common that anyone who is dedicated to women’s health has heard survivor stories.

Instead, Dr. Ron Paul shows his disinterest in the reality of women’s lives, in current practice for care of crime victims, his judgementalness and lack of curiosity or willingness to look beyond the rigid thinking he has shown on this issue.

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Ron Paul echoes Dan Quayle.

He says that ‘if it’s honest rape’ a woman should go ‘immediately to the ER to get a shot of estrogen. An hour or a day after, you have no medical or legal problem.’ When Piers Morgan asks Ron Paul what happens if the victim is ashamed or unable to get help and shows up days or weeks later, Paul dodges the question and goes into a rant about women demanding abortions of late-term pregnancies.

I will post a transcript when one becomes available.

Just for the record, ‘a shot of estrogen’ is not the current standard of care for a rape victim. The infamous ‘morning after’ pill is what is given. The rape exam can be done up to 4 days after the assault, though the chance of getting DNA evidence decreases with time. Medical care for a woman who has been injured, fears a sexually transmitted disease, or an unwanted pregnancy can be done later.

Ron Paul seems to be saying that if you can’t prove sperm met egg, it’s okay. He also says, ‘if it’s honest rape’. Who will be the judge of that? Anyone who has worked with victims of crime– any crime, knows that the story can be confused, contradictory and sordid. Should the rape exam include an inquisition as to whether the victim has a right to treatment at all?

We’re almost thirty years on, and still a man presumes to make policy for women’s lives– displaying a mistrust of women’s honesty, and a disinterest in the dirty details of what happens in the real world.

Follow this link for the standard of care for sexual assault survivors.

Follow this link for information about Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) , a nursing specialty instituted because doctors were unable to provide the sensitive, meticulous and time-consuming care needed by victims who come to the ER.

Any time a rapist is brought to justice by DNA evidence we should thank the SANE nurses who give respectful care to all victims. We should thank the women, physicians and nurses, who created this nursing specialty to help women to find care and healing.


[I wanted to write about some very dark things, responding to recent stories in the press about rape and child abuse. Joe Paterno's story provides context, but a dilemma. Piling on an 85 year old man is unseemly, so is glossing over the damage he did by allowing a coverup and abandoning the children he should have protected. Readers, I do not intend to excuse anything that was done at Penn State or in other institutions that value their reputation more than their integrity.]

Coach Joe Paterno has passed. This should have been a semi-private bereavement for sports lovers and the community of Penn State, but this revered elderly man was undone in his last days by unspoken pacts not honored and a foundation of lies that crumbled under his feet. He made headlines, not for praise but for notoriety.

Nothing makes sense out of context. In the context of the old school that formed him, Joe Paterno could have calculated the cost of taking his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, to the law, and found it better to write off the injured boys and their families as a loss. Too bad. He could not predict that the bill would come due with interest.

This awful case gives support to the convention of keeping sexual assault accusers anonymous– after Paterno stepped down violence broke out at Penn State

Penn State University has had a few destructive riots since the 1990s that have resulted in thousands of dollars in damage and several arrests.

But none has been as destructive or consequential as the one Nov. 9 following the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.

Thirty-eight people have been charged with participating in destructive behavior, and seven more arrests are pending, police said.

And later, the adults had their say…

BRADY: President Erickson referred questions about Paterno’s firing to the board of trustees, which issued a statement Thursday. It said trustees unanimously decided letting the coach go was in the best interest of the university.

That didn’t go over well at another meeting in the same hotel last night. Downstairs, a group of alumni who want to get rid of the entire board of trustees held a competing conversation. Former Penn State and pro football player Franco Harris responded to the board’s statement that it acted in the best interest of the university.

FRANCO HARRIS: They think that we are that dumb. That’s exactly what they said two months ago and they still want us to swallow that.

I heard that broadcast, the alumni sounded outraged that this mess was interfering with their football.

When the kids are trashing news vans and the adults are demanding a purge, you don’t want to be caught alone after dark…

Penn State says Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who saw the alleged 2002 incident involving Sandusky and a young boy, will not be at Saturday’s football game because of “multiple threats.”

It’s fortunate that the young men who allege that Sandusky abused them haven’t had to face the mob.

Penn State suffered a violation, and the community may feel disgust and rage– either at the perpetrators or the victims for disturbing the peace. They feel hurt and aggrieved.

But for the victims and their families, there is uncountable loss. For them it is a grief like a bereavement. The children suffer a violation of their innocence, the parents will forever question why they so misplaced their trust. That poor and disadvantaged children are targeted for this kind of abuse just adds to the awfulness of the crime. And the rapist is a nice guy, who everyone likes, and no one would listen to a word against him. Imagine a child in the hell a perverse adult could create– with no way out and on one who can protect them.

If they choose to speak out in court, we will hear their side of the story. Perhaps then we will have to acknowledge how destructive this kind of crime is.

Three authors this month have published dispatches from the gates of hell.

Margaret Atwood’s short story, ‘Stone Mattress’ is described by the author as a crime story. A woman calculates whether she can get away with murder. Atwood’s fictional rapist, a rich boy who lured the woman years ago to what was supposed to be a prom date, but was a setup for a gang rape, is a character so vile that– Margaret, I would have kept him alive a bit longer. Perhaps long enough to see his ship disappearing over the horizon as he waves unseen on the shore while night falls and the wolves howl behind the next rise. Just a suggestion.

Dorri Olds, in the New York Times 1/15/12 has an essay, ‘Defriending My Rapist.’ This story is a horrific echo of Atwoods fiction, taking place maybe 20 years later, in the 70’s. In this memoir the same dynamic is in play. A thirteen year old girl, excited to be included with the cool kids, is lured into the woods and gang-raped. She has no more power to make sense of this crime or seek justice than Atwood’s fictional protagonist. Years later she gets a ‘friend’ invitation on Facebook. The rapist is just a regular guy. She sends an oblique message that she hasn’t forgotten what they did to her. Is there a person with a conscience to read it? What does that man think when he looks at his own children?

In the same issue of The Times,
Dr. H. Lee Kagan writes
about providing emergency care to a rape victim in Haiti. Dr. Kagan delegates the rape exam to a nurse who is competent but gives no word of comfort. The victim has no other choice than to go back to the camp where her attackers may find her. There is no evidence taken or hope of justice.

If you think that can’t happen here, think of Dorri Olds having to go back to school and face those boys. Look at the violence and outrage at Penn State and imagine why a ten year old boy would have no safe place to go. It does not excuse criminals to say they act within a culture that shelters and allows them to rationalize their crimes– rather it’s an indictment of the culture.

There are people who are psychopaths, who lack a conscience, who sit in solitude inventing new ways to damage the world. But they are not so common. More common are those who go along to get along. Those who who only take out their rage on someone who’s asking for it. Regular guys.

That’s the way grown men convince themselves not to call the cops when one of them is caught raping a boy. Without the groupthink, rapists and child abusers would have a harder time hiding in plain sight.

If Jerry Sandusky feels any remorse for sending Joe Paterno to his grave in scandal he should. If Joe Paterno felt remorse for not protecting those children, he is beyond suffering now and beyond justice. The young men will have to live with the memories of what was done to them. What could we do to protect other children from abuse?

Day One RI has programs for all ages to teach children and young people how to recognize and respond to the pressures and social conditions that lead to abuse.

If you google ‘men against rape’ a page of sites come up. Men Can Stop Rape has good teaching materials and ideas for what young men can do to recognize and stop violence.

The abuse at Penn State is not an isolated act of criminal genius. It’s a sad story too often told when an organization is more invested in its image than in serving the children and youth they claim to exist for. It’s the kind of abuse that can happen when some people are deemed to be a little less important, expendable, not to be believed.

This truth-telling is very painful. It damages our sense of safety. It’s ugly.
But worse is to require victims to suffer in silence so that the rest of us can keep our illusions. In this imperfect world, the best we can do is to try to let children know that they are no less valuable than anyone else, and that if they are wronged they will be believed. And to value justice more than complacency, because we all might need a defender some day.

Do You Know Who I Am?

A reporter interviewed the neighbors and friends of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s victim and paints a picture of a quiet, religious woman whose social network was the French African community in Harlem, NYC. Via Worldcrunch from Le Figaro…

By Renaud Girard
LE FIGARO/ Worldcrunch

NEW YORK – The alleged sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the now former head of the International Monetary Fund, has been major worldwide news. But it has hit especially hard in New York’s French-speaking African community, home to the Guinean woman employed as a maid at the Sofitel Hotel where she says the 62-year-old French politician sexually assaulted her.

In the heart of Harlem, a small grocery store offers a flavor of Africa. The plump 45-year-old woman owner, Ms. A, who gives her customers a warm welcome in impeccable French, wears a long traditional green-colored African dress, and a turban made out of the same fabric is wrapped round her hair. Born in Guinea, she is a Muslim woman who belongs to the Mandinka ethnic group. The alleged victim is from northern Guinea, and her ethnicity is Fulani.

Reporters have claimed that DSK’s friends are in Africa, trying to bribe and pressure the victim’s family to get her to drop the charges. It’s said that the family is very religious, not susceptible to bribes, and heartbroken about what is happening to their sister. It seems at first glance that she is resolute, and supported by a family that is poor in money but rich in respect.

But Renaud Girard puts a troubling spin on this story. The victim has had the misfortune to embarrass a man whose social power is felt in Africa as well as France– a man whose financial reach allows him to invade every aspect of his victim’s past and find any weakness in her social network that he can exploit…

“Make no mistake, this affair brings shame upon her family. In Africa, the parties involved would have solved this problem in secret,” says [victim's friend, Amadou] N’Diaye. “From now on, two lives have been unnecessarily ruined, (the victim’s) life and DSK’s life. DSK is a man who the French-speaking African community appreciates a lot.”

At Restaurant 2115, people show solidarity with the alleged victim, but nobody is eager to condemn DSK. Africans who live in New York think that the charges “will not hold up.” “How could a 62-year-old man, who is not athletic at all, have forced a 32-year-old woman, who is tall and muscular from her manual work, to have sexual relations with him?” one wondered.

Amadou imagines a scenario in which “three very different cultures clash.” The French culture of DSK, who made an extremely inappropriate move in suite 2806, but who called the hotel while heading for the airport, unaware that he had committed a crime. The culture of modesty of a pious Funali woman, who did not expose the crime and who did not confide her shame to the Sofitel Hotel’s management, but was rather found sobbing by her coworkers, who then called the police. The “Prussian” culture of the American police in which things are either black or white, with no gray areas.

This is so telling. Some of the French women who have come forward with stories of DSK’s abuse of power were clearly prevented by social pressure from speaking sooner. Great social pressure will be brought to bear on the victim and her family, even if they are not tempted by money.

Although she did no wrong, she and her family are ‘shamed’. That it was such an important man who attacked her is more shame. Did she fight back hard enough? Was it necessary to ‘ruin his life’? Should she have borne her shame in silence? Should he have been set free to victimize more women?

And the American police– was it for them to decide that this affair should be covered up? Show due deference to a very important person? Perhaps take a tip for services rendered? Would that be less ‘Prussian’ and more ‘French’?

I asked someone who knows a lot about sexual assault cases whether the accused can give a victim money to drop the charges. She said that it’s not legal to do that outright, but that the state would have a much harder time prosecuting a case if the victim refused to testify, and it was not uncommon for this to happen in fact. Offering a victim’s family a bribe is witness tampering.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent until proved guilty. I thought that given the evidence and the conduct of the victim he would eventually be convicted. But considering the misogyny that exists in so many communities, and its power to isolate and blame victims, I have more doubts now. The social power DSK used on high-status French women might be brought to bear on a poor working community until they are willing to sacrifice one of their own.

‘Do you know who I am?’
he allegedly asked as he assaulted his victim. She didn’t then, she only feared for her dignity and her job. This man could do her more harm than she ever imagined. No one should have that kind of power. If the law means anything, it must protect the humble against the arrogant and ruthless.

LEGAL MOVE OR THREAT? DSK’s lawyers, angry about leaks to the press, have sent a letter to the prosecution claiming they have information that will discredit the victim. The DA’s office does not sound intimidated–

Assistant DA Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in a response letter that prosecutors were “troubled that you chose to inject into the public record your claim that you possess information that might negatively impact the case and ‘gravely’ undermine the credibility of the victim.”
“We are aware of no such information,” she added. “If you really do possess the kind of information you suggest that you do, we trust you will forward it immediately to the District Attorney’s Office.”

I think we passed the point where any woman alleging rape had to have her whole life examined for purity. I don’t think there’s much in the victim’s past that will change the picture, but everyone has trouble in life, and the letter from the defense sounds like blackmail.

One Conspiracy Theory Debunked

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.

Where Did She Find the Courage?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent until proved guilty. This long post will take the perspective of victim’s advocate in discussing the issues raised by that case, but ultimately the jury will decide. That being said, I think he’s guilty as hell.

A lot of nonsense is flowing through the internets about the victim’s allegations. Posts dismissing the claims of other women speaking out about past attempted rapes and assaults. It’s a common occurrence that a serial abuser goes unchallenged for decades, and then when the abuser is exposed, witnesses come forward. They are criticized for not speaking out sooner, and sometimes blamed for not helping to stop the abuse. Ignorant people brag about ‘what they would have done’, tough talk being easier than action. This dynamic exists in the politics of bullying and deception, even when sex is not the issue.

Bernie Madoff was beyond reproach, until he was mobbed by betrayed investors. But there were plenty of warning signs, and trusted institutions failed to provide oversight.

A code of silence has traditionally protected politicians who can’t control their sexual impulses. It’s not always a man imposing on a woman.

Conservative writer David Brooks, while talking about dignity in politics disclosed that he had tolerated inappropriate touching from a male politician…

[Brooks] shared an interesting anecdote with Norah O’Donnell and John Harwood.

“You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don’t know about you guys, but in my view, they’re all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They’re guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ‘Ehh, get me out of here.'”

When O’Donnell inquired about Brooks’ dinner companion, the columnist replied, “I’m not telling you; I’m not telling you.”

I find David Brooks annoying, but I don’t judge him for not outing Mr. Friendly. Brooks had a lot to lose if he made a fuss, and more trouble if he made an enemy of a man he needed to deal with in Washington. Maybe Brooks should out him, though. Guys like that often find someone they can really abuse, and they need to be stopped.

This month a church worker lost a court case contesting her firing when she reported a priest she considered a danger to children…

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Jefferson Circuit Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the archdiocese of Louisville.

The lawsuit filed by Gary and Margie Weiter, of Louisville, alleged the archdiocese violated its own policies on responding to sexual abuse.

Margie Weiter contended a priest who had allegedly been sexually abusive was moving about at the St. Therese Catholic Church in Germantown unsupervised and circulating among children and that she was fired when she complained.

The Weiters also claimed a convicted sex offender, Bruce Ewing, was active in a parish council.

The judge deemed this a Church internal matter, the Weiters may appeal.

Senator Scott Brown disclosed in his recent book that as a child he was sexually abused by a camp counselor. He didn’t name names, but it soon came out that Camp Good News, a religious camp, had problems going back decades. A counselor committed suicide after being accused of abuse.

“There were red flags,” [Mitchell Garabedian, the accuser's attorney] said. “The questions remain: What did the supervisors know? When did they know? And what did they do it about it?”
A former camp employee, Charles Lewis, told ABC that he notified camp administrators in the late 1990s that Devita had child pornography on his computer, but they did nothing about it. He said he then contacted the police in 2002 and told them the same story, but is unclear what became of the allegations.

Journalist, Tristane Banon, says she fought off an attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2002 when she was 21 years old, and is being harshly criticized for not pressing charges at the time, though she did discuss the attack in an interview in 2007…

Banon consulted a lawyer, but did not press charges. “I didn’t want to be known to the end of my days as the girl who had a problem with the politician.”

Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, told journalists on Sunday night she had dissuaded her daughter from legal action because she believed Strauss-Kahn’s behaviour had been out of character and because of close links with his family. “Today I am sorry to have discouraged my daughter from complaining. I bear a heavy responsibility,” she said.

She said Strauss-Kahn was “an otherwise warm, sympathetic and extremely talented man”, but the attack left her daughter depressed and traumatised. “My daughter, despite the passing years, is still shocked by these facts. Her life was completely upset by this affair and she was depressed for a long time.” She added that it was clear Strauss-Kahn had “difficulty controlling his urges”. She said: “I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist, but there is something violent in this predatory move.”

More from

Banon further alleges that the story was covered up in the media. She decided not to press charges. Her publisher took out the chapter on Strauss-Kahn from the book for which she had tried to interview him. A segment on another talk show where she mentioned the incident was cut out during editing.

She alleges that another talk show host was pressured to cancel an invitation for her to appear, because the show is live.

Agora Vox quotes Banon, explaining why she decided to not press charges and move on (emphasis ours):

Who is to say half the people I’ll meet won’t believe me? So I told myself I had to live with it. And what would I gain? Money? I don’t want his money. … And there is the fact that I live alone in Paris. … He doesn’t have the most refined methods. … I don’t think he would have had me killed, but possibly roughed up.

She was the god-daughter of his second wife, and he had been physically violent enough to justify her fear.

Arnold Schwartzenegger is in the news, with headlines claiming his reputation has been ruined by the revelation that he impregnated his housekeeper ten years ago. Anyone not suffering from amnesia will ask, ‘what reputation’? The Gropinator’s sense of entitlement with women who were in a subordinate position, his bullying manner– that was part of his charm. The women he grabbed and pushed around just had to live with it. From the L.A. Times..

Four of the six women told their stories on condition that they not be named. Three work in Hollywood and said they were worried that, if they were identified, their careers would be in jeopardy for speaking out against Schwarzenegger, the onetime bodybuilding champion and box-office star who is now the front-runner in the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election.
The other unnamed woman said she feared public ridicule and possible damage to her husband’s business.
In the four cases in which the women would not let their names be published, friends or relatives said that the women had told them about the incidents long before Schwarzenegger’s run for governor.
None of the six women who gave their accounts to The Times filed any legal action against him.

ProPublica has more on what happened to women who spoke to a reporter about Schwartzenegger’s gross behavior…

Election Day arrived and Schwarzenegger was elected by a wide margin. The Los Angeles Times was castigated for smearing Schwarzenegger close to the election. Ten thousand readers canceled their subscriptions. I received a string of vicious calls and emails. The women were branded as liars desperate for a share of fame.

One of the women called me in tears. I’d cajoled her into revealing her humiliations — and here was yet another. The voters, like Hollywood, ignored the star’s troubling behavior. I was devastated and angry, too — and guilty for wasting their courage.

Speaking out has a cost. We’re only a few decades past the time when victims of sexual assault carried the secret their whole lives, because no one wanted to be damaged goods. It is the result of years of advocacy that we have better police work, better laws. All the people mentioned above had far more social status than the maid who was assaulted this week.

Where did she find the courage to come forward, when so many others were unable despite having more social power?

My guess is that she came to the US as a refugee from violence, and had few illusions about her place in the world. The only security she had was earned with her own work– the patronage of important people did not figure in to this situation.

Perhaps her attacker would have used some social pressure, charm and deception if she had seemed connected to anyone who could defend her, but she was a black woman from a poor part of the world, so he tried to terrorize her into submission. She fought him off and escaped.

Very important– she was able to go to her supervisor for help, and the supervisor quickly called the police. Look at the above examples and see how rare it is that institutions and the people in them do the right thing. The hotel had established a hotline to report abuse. That suggests that abuse was a problem, but also that there was a policy to protect employees. If she had not found immediate aid, and a fast and competent response from the police, she would have been without recourse like so many others. But now the law is on her side.

If Dominique Strauss-Kahn is found guilty, it will be because of the courage of a quiet and almost invisible woman, who fought her attacker and sought justice, when so many others let crime go unchallenged.

CONSEQUENCES: The press is already outing the victim as a woman living with HIV, in the process of publicizing where she lives. She is not staying in her apartment, and I hope that when this is over she will be able to find a safe place to live and work.


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