Accused Rapists Find a Friend in Bernard-Henri Levy

We have a longer post coming on the rape charges brought against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but in the interim, allow me to direct your attention towards a fine piece of victim-blaming and my-friends-can-do-no-wrong-ing: Bernard-Henri Levy, also a defender of Roman Polanksi, explaining why Strauss-Kahn should not have the suffer the indignities of the American justice system.

He starts out, naturally, by saying that he “doesn’t know” what happened, but is happy to imply that the woman who accused Strauss-Kahn of assault is probably lying. Why? Because she’s a maid, and went in to a clean a room alone:

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.

And I do not want to enter into considerations of dime-store psychology that claims to penetrate the mind of the subject, observing, for example, that the number of the room (2806) corresponds to the date of the opening of the Socialist Party primaries in France (06.28), in which he is the uncontested favorite, thereby concluding that this is all a Freudian slip, a subconsciously deliberate mistake, and blah blah blah.

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.

What I know is that nothing, no suspicion whatever (for let’s remind ourselves that, as I write these lines, we are dealing only with suspicions!), permits the entire world to revel in the spectacle, this morning, of this handcuffed figure, his features blurred by 30 hours of detention and questioning, but still proud.

What I know as well is that nothing, no earthly law, should also allow another woman, his wife, admirable in her love and courage, to be exposed to the slime of a public opinion drunk on salacious gossip and driven by who knows what obscure vengeance.

All of which is good and fine, tried-and-true victim blaming. The accuser is low-class! What was she doing in there alone! He has a wife so he couldn’t have done this! Etc. But it pales in comparison to this stand-out line:

This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.

Let me copy and paste that again for you: “This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.”

How darehe be treated like just anyone!

As an aside, I think “perp walks,” where they parade the accused in front of throngs of photographers, are bad and irresponsible. But they’re not particularlybad here because Strauss-Kahn is a special snowflake who deserves to be treated with kid gloves. Levi continues:

I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact.

That actually isn’t at all how our criminal justice system works. You can’t just accuse someone of a crime, with no basis in fact, and expect to have it prosecuted. DA’s offices and police forces investigate crimes for the purposes of (1) figuring out whether a crime was committed; (2) figuring out who committed it; and (3) gathering enough evidence to actually convict the person who committed it. So no, it’s not like I can walk into a police station, point a finger and send someone to jail.

But that’s not really the issue here. Levi’s complaint is that anyone would be able to level any sort of complaint against Strauss-Kahn. Other women coming forward and saying that Kahn acted (to put it extremely mildly) inappropriatelytowards them, and another woman who says Kahn tried to rape her, too? They are trying to “settle old scores or further their own little affairs;” the woman who came forward and said she kept the attempted rape a secret “pretends to have been the victim.” Kahn, on the other hand, is a champion, and the kind of man who should be accorded deference no matter what he does.

Kahn, of course, deserves his day in court. But if even putting him in the court room is an indignity he should not have to face, I’m not sure how justice can be done. And I’m not sure how tarring the women who have accused him of assault furthers a just outcome.

If you read French and want to die a little inside, here’s a round-up of the worst of the worst from the French press.

Feministe / By Jill F

Posted at May 17, 2011, 6:17am

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