Take Action: Tell Media to Stop Victim-Blaming in IMF Chief Coverage

The coverage of the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in which the now-former IMF head is accused of sexually assaulting a hotel employee, has been thus far remarkably biased – against the accuser. Several US media outlets have been engaged in egregious victim-blaming, to say nothing of French papers. A recent Daily Beast piece by Bernard-Henri Levy, for instance, wondered “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.” What?

The Women's Media Center has collected more examples of this egregious victim-blaming here. To wit:

If that wasn’t bad enough, The American Spectator published this despicable piece by Ben Stein yesterday, in which he ranted:

“The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn ‘forced’ the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He’s a short fat old man. They were in a hotel with people passing by the room constantly, if it’s anything like the many hotels I am in. How did he intimidate her in that situation? And if he was so intimidating, why did she immediately feel un-intimidated enough to alert the authorities as to her story?

People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid? I love and admire hotel maids. They have incredibly hard jobs and they do them uncomplainingly. I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me. How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail?”

After all this media coverage, all women (and men) may have more to worry about than the possibility that an international leader is guilty of sexual assault. This type of coverage reinforces the power structures that legitimize sexism and rape, and works directly against the elimination of sexual violence in our culture. In a country where a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes, such pieces do real harm.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network estimates that as many as 60 percent of rapes go unreported to police, and this sort of cultural disdain for the accusers does not help. Join WMC and AlterNet in telling the Daily Beast, the New York Post and the American Spectator that this kind of reporting is not responsible reporting, and that, in WMC's words, 'media has a responsibility to work towards the elimination of rape culture and sexism.' Sign the Change.org petition here!

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at May 19, 2011, 7:19am

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