Power and vulnerablity in France and beyond


Louis XVI

The pendulum of coverage on Dominique Strauss-Kahn is swinging back to “he is a pig” position , or to use the metaphor I used before, the media is jumping back onto the “he is a pig” bandwagon.  Just when it seemed he might slip by and even return to France as the Socialist party’s candidate for presidency of France, a new (actually it is not new, but rather renewed and formalized legally) complain has surfaced accusing him of criminal rape in France 9 years ago.

The young woman, his daughter’s age, says that 9 years ago when he agreed to an interview with the budding, innocent and vulnerable reporter that Strauss-Kahn lured her to an empty apartment.  Instead of an interview, or may be he thought of it as foreplay to an interview, she says he attacked and that she fought back – “like a tiger” if you remember your Chicago. According to her statement:

“It ended really badly. We ended up fighting. It finished really violently.” “We fought on the floor. It wasn’t a case of a couple of slaps. I kicked him, he unhooked my bra, he tried to open my jeans.” He acted like a “horny monkey.” “I said the word ‘rape’ to scare him but it didn’t seem to scare him much, which suggests he was used to it.”

We have no quotes from Strauss-Kahn, but his lawyers are preparing to file lawsuits against her in retaliation.  Whatever happens in court, one thing would seem certain, Dominique will not be replacing Nicholas anytime soon.  Rape has a way of sidetracking a promising career of a man, just as it is deeply disturbing for the women and equally life-changing.   Rape cases are disturbing, they are disturbing to me for two distinct reasons.  First, because rape often involves a very power (whether physically or politically) male attacking a weak, nearly defenseless and innocent – think mother, sister or granddaughter – women/girl.  There are of course rapes of men by men and even occasionally of men or other women by women, but the power issues remains the same. The all powerful man gets what he wants while the victim is helpless during the assault.

The other reason rape is disturbing to me is the polular opposite.  A man accused of rape has no defense  – indeed is as defenseless as a rape victim, the only defense is to say he did not rape the other person.  He can claim that there was consequential sex, or there was no sex, but whatever he claims the jury will rule based on a “he said, she said” trial.   Both of their lives will have been dragged before the court, expect in jurisdictions where the conditions of the woman’s life are not allowed as evidence; and both will forever be tainted by the accusation.   At some point in his life, almost every man has thought about being accused of rape; not because of forcing attentions on someone, although he might have done that, but because of some public rape event like this one.  Could not anyone women I ever dated claim I raped her or tried to rape her?  It certainly is a common fear of men, a women out for vengeance could destroy a person’s life.

In the 1980s when there were a rash of child abuse cases, I had the same fears.  In many of those cases the children involved were barely old enough to talk, and the “real” testimony came from case workers who interpreted the behavior of a child as clear evidence of abuse.  It seems the abusers were everywhere, some even set up schools and had assistants who helped them lure the children into……….   Each case seemed to outdo the last for  its horrific details and degree of perverseness of the perpetrators.   Many careers and lives were destroyed – have you heard of one of those cases lately – no?  Probably because much of methodology of the social workers was discredited and fewer parents stepped forward to accuse day-care workers as sexual perverts without the coaching of the social workers.  And several of the cases ended when the accusers were shown to have an agenda or seeking personal revenge.  In the heat national attention, it was very scary to be a man – one might be accused and what defense was there?  I did not do is never enough – especially when the media is on the “he is a pig” bandwagon.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn may be a rapist, and then again he may not be a rapist; whichever the case we can only hope that the courts, now both in the United States and in France get to the truth and administer justice.  However it is resolved it is disturbing to me and I feel very vulnerable – wait isn’t that what women say they feel in the presence of men of power?

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