What we can learn from the Strauss-Kahn case

Many activists, bloggers, feminists, womanists and those in between pretty much knew the chambermaid’s case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was tough to prove from the start. There was no concrete physical evidence; he was the powerful leader of the International Monetary Fund; she was a working class mother trying to make ends meet. The case drew media attention and criticism of both parties involved quickly followed. But as the New York Supreme Court dismissed charges against DSK, the saga surrounding the charges against the French politician serves as a teachable  moment for women, those without money and victims of rape and other sex crimes.

The primary lesson from the case is women will pay for bringing their accusations of sex crimes against rich, powerful men into the limelight. Women who decided to press charges against are immediately faced with questions surrounding her credibility, how she acted in the aftermath of the case and whether her story holds water. Any holes in a victim’s story will be seen as gaping trenches, with prosecutors unable to fill anything substantial to mask any doubts.

As rape culture teaches us, there are a certain set of parameters women must meet in order to be taken seriously as a probable (yes, I said probable for a reason) victim of a sex crime. Women who are sexually assaulted are supposed to not only fight to the death to prevent a rape or assault, but they should also exhibit hysteria, dissociation and a feeling of complete violation after the attack. A victim is supposed to have numerous bruises, cuts and abrasions to show she indeed did not lure a rapist to attack her. If she does not meet any of the criteria above, then her motive and her story is questioned.

Women are also supposed to suffer from an immediate form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rape victims are expected to demonstrate adverse reactions to any reminder of their attack–including not wanting to be touched or have sex with her boyfriend or girlfriend–and are supposed to be inflicted with many flashbacks, rendering them unable to sleep, eat or live normal lives. Rape victims are supposed to hide out in bed, not wanting the world to see what a rapist did to her.

Rape victims are supposed to be pretty. Rape culture dictates to us that only pretty, attractive women are raped; no one wants to rape an overweight woman of color, the practitioners of rape culture like to tell us. Women are consistently told they are raped because men are unable to contain their sexual desire and urges and they should feel lucky any man feels so passionately about their physical attributes.

Rape victims aren’t supposed to continue their normal routines after they are attacked, as DSK’s victim supposedly did immediately after her attack. Rape and sexual assault victims are supposed to be so paralyzed by the attack that they are unable to process what exactly the should do. In other words, the idea of being violated in a sexual manner is enough to reduce a woman to an infantile state where she is unable to understand the world around her.

Victims of rape, particularly women of color, better have a squeaky clean background with no hints of infidelity, drug and alcohol use, using public assistance to get by, sex work or children born out-of-wedlock hidden in your past. If any inkling of this were to appear, your chances of getting justice have all but dwindled in the judgmental eye of the public and the legal community.

Victims of rape and other sex crimes aren’t supposed to discuss with others about how they could monetarily benefit from his or her’s pending case. Rape culture promoters tell women and society that genuine victims wouldn’t even think about any attack and their attackers in that manner. Again, the woman in the aftermath of the attack is supposed to be stricken with such repulsion of her rapist and the assault that all she wants is to take her attacker to court.

The state supreme court’s decision to drop the charges against DSK was an unfortunate, yet predictable outcome in the international scandal. DSK, like the many other men in this country, will walk away without a scratch to his reputation after being charged with rape or other sex crimes by women of the wrong class, race and ethnic background. DSK, like other men before him, will be able to continue to live his own life without any wrinkles in his persona in the court of international public opinion while women like the chambermaid will struggle with what she could have done differently to create a more positive outcome in her case.

Another win for rape culture.