Dominique Strauss-Kahn is free, his accuser facing an uncertain future. What started out looking like a turning point– a poor working woman seeking justice for a crime committed by one of the world’s privileged, quickly degenerated into a media circus that left no one looking good.
I care very much about the presumption of innocence. Too many people have been wrongly convicted, from the Salem hysteria, to the Scottsboro Boys, to the many prisoners exonerated after years by DNA evidence. The press can’t be expected to ignore a story that is so intensely interesting on so many levels, but the trial by media harmed both parties. Dominique Strauss-Kahn has wealth and social protection on a level that Naffisitou Diallo can never aspire to. He will never know what it’s like to face poverty or to labor in a foreign country. Ms. Diallo, even if she wins a civil suit, has suffered the greater loss. She had a hard job, but a secure one, with decent wages and benefits. She had privacy. She might have fallen prey to bad judgment and bad companions, but just as likely would have stayed under the radar. Any money left from a settlement after lawyers take their cut is unlikely to set her up in a life that is financially and socially safe. Her reputation as a quiet, hard-working woman has been destroyed. Her life, no less than Strauss-Kahn’s, has value. If her testimony is true, her attacker vandalized a woman’s life just on impulse.
I believe she was telling the truth about what happened in that hotel suite. I think that Strauss-Kahn is not a ‘womanizer’ who uses charm, but a man who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer and has become a man who has a compulsion to hurt women. But that is trial by media– not something that serves justice or the rights of the accused or the rights of victims.
William Saletan at Slate has a post called ‘Frame the Victim’ that brings up some of the troubling aspects of the DA’s office handling of the case. I think they did a lot right, took a lot of heat for it, and then caved too soon. I’m flat out and not able to take it point by point, but will post especially relevant posts like Saletan’s.