Today in Rape Culture: New York Post Calls DSK Accuser a "Hooker"

Not that I expect a lot of journalistic integrity from the New York Post, but today's front-page headline is really something else: "DSK MAID A HOOKER: 'Took care' of guests on the side," it reads.

So... yeah. Let's go over a timeline of the major events in this case to try and figure out how we got to this point, shall we?

--A maid at New York's Sofitel Hotel accuses a powerful man, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of orally raping her. DSK denies that any sex occurred.

--After investigators find evidence that a sexual encounter did, in fact, occur, DSK changes his story. He acknowledges that he had sexual relations with the maid and claims the sex was consensual.

--While building their case against DSK, the prosecution finds that the accuser lied in her testimony about a number of facts, including the details of a previous gang rape in her home country of Guinea, possibly so she could gain asylum in the United States. She may also have ties to money laundering.

--The accuser's attorney notes, however, that "The medical evidence supports the victim's account. The forensic evidence supports her account."

--Major media outlets make the false assumption that because the accuser lied about several things in her past, then she also lied about her encounter with DSK -- or that because she has some skeletons in her closet, she could not have been raped. (DSK's defense team surely helped push these notions.)

--The Post takes the smear campaign against the accuser to a whole new level, quoting an anonymous "source close to the defense investigation" who suggests (but never outright claims) that the accuser is a prostitute. Based on this quote alone, the paper's editors decide that the "hooker" headline is the way to go.

In case you think I'm exaggerating about the Postitem, here's a snippet (h/t Gawker):

"There is information . . . of her getting extraordinary tips, if you know what I mean. And it's not for bringing extra f—king towels," a source close to the defense investigation said yesterday.

The woman was allegedly purposely assigned to the Midtown hotel by her union because it knew she would bring in big bucks.

"When you're a chambermaid at Local 6, when you first get to the US, you start at the motels at JFK [Airport]. You don't start at the Sofitel," the source said. "There's a whole squad of people who saw her as an earner."

The woman also had "a lot of her expenses — hair braiding, salon expenses — paid for by men not related to her," the source said.

An "earner"! Who has to pay for those salon trips somehow, ifyaknowwhatImean.

As many smart people have noted this week, these moves are straight out of the "how to get away with rape" playbook: deny, smear, repeat. And definitely never acknowledge that what a victim wears, does, says, or has previously lied about is irrelevant to whether or not s/he was raped.

Jaclyn Friedman breaks it down for us over at GOOD:

I know this may come as a shock to some, but the U.S. justice system isn't perfect. If it were, black men wouldn't be eight times more likely than white men to be sent to prison, and rape wouldn't be so disproportionately under-prosecuted and even less frequently convicted. Since some commentators are inclined to go all Occam's Razor on this case, why are we so unwilling to consider the possibility that an imperfect, possibly criminally-involved woman, whose status in the U.S. is precarious at best, was raped on the job by a very powerful man?....

Given the realities of the U.S. criminal justice system, the prosecution may be unable to salvage this case. But just because that system fails victims on the regular doesn't mean we have to, too. French commentators are already calling for DSK to jump back into the country's presidential race and ride a wave of sympathy into office. Really, the stakes are greater than even that political prize. If we accept the narrative that only perfect women are raped, we risk sacrificing justice not only for this woman, but for victims of sexual assault everywhere. After all, nobody's perfect.

The next time someone asks you what "rape culture" means, you can point them to this.

Update: I'd like to point readers to a blog post by legal expert Roger Canaff, "Developments in the DSK Case: What They Mean And What They Don't," which sheds more light on the situation. (h/t Jaclyn Friedman)


AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at July 2, 2011, 6:50am

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