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.
News is leaking about the identity of the woman who reported that IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn assaulted her.
I had already formed a mental picture of a petite woman with a humble manner, [later reports-- she is a tall woman] an immigrant, a woman of color [legal resident from West Africa, possibly a refugee from political violence].
Bits of news stories– Fox saying sources were surprised ‘she wasn’t a seductive-looking woman’, a neighbor saying she was shy and frightened of the crime in her building, a report she was originally from Senegal [or Guinea, they are adjacent].
I think she appeared to be physically unassuming and unassertive, and looked like an easy mark to a man accustomed to success in bullying. She was stronger than she looked, clearly. The economist made a costly error in judgment.
Strauss-Kahn already has the best lawyers in the world lined up against New York prosecutors. It’s the free market vs the government. One blog commenter speculated that the maid is an operative of the darker races vs the European hold on the IMF. Others that it’s a right-wing smear campaign. I think it will emerge that this guy is a perp who has been enabled for too long.
I would love it if readers shared stories they might have about jobs and how they are treated when they wear a uniform– cleaner, food server, security guard, health care. We want to be a classless society, but we’re not there yet. Still, it is high drama to see a working woman stand up to a millionaire and claim justice.
UPDATE: From the Houston Chronicle…
The woman’s lawyer, Shapiro, said there was no truth to suggestions that she had fabricated her account, describing her as an honest woman with “no agenda.”
“Her life has now been turned upside down. She can’t go home. She can’t go back to work. She has no idea what her future will be, what she will be able to do to support herself and her daughter. This has been nothing short of a cataclysmic event in her life,” Shapiro said. He said she “feels alone in the world.”
The woman, he said, came to the U.S. seven years ago under “very difficult circumstances” and is raising her daughter by herself now that the girl’s father is dead. The family was granted asylum in the U.S., and she is a legal resident. She has worked at the hotel for three years, according to Shapiro.
Bernard-Henry Levi, important French guy, has found the fatal flaw in the victim’s story here…
I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—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.
So, you see, it’s all her fault for thinking she could walk into a hotel room alone just because it was her job to clean it. [ A normal person, when a maid knocks, would say, 'come back later'. But we're in Levi Land, an alternate world where jumping out and assaulting someone is the lesser crime.]
It will be fun if there’s a reaction from the hospitality industry, where employers are not eager to pay two people to do a job if it can be done by one. When I worked in motels near Green Airport and at the Marriott we seldom worked in pairs, but what do I know, I’m only a former maid.
I was staying in a motel just this weekend, and the room cleaners, male and female, were pushing carts down long hallways just as I remember it. But what do I know? I don’t stay in the $3,000 a night suite.
MORE UPDATE: This is via Echidne of the Snakes. Ben Stein, noted Creation Scientist and entertainer, wrote a post in American Spectator. He loves hotel maids, when they are not the thieving incompetents he is so often unfortunate enough to endure. Economists, on the other hand, are not the type of person you imagine committing violent crime, so Strauss-Kahn’s word should be bond enough to let him go back to France. Bad Habits blog takes this argument apart.