Earlier this morning, in a turn that many of us suspected coming, a Manhattan judge granted the NYC District Attorney’s office request to dismiss all pending criminal charges, including sexual assault and rape, against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. According to court documents, the decision to drop the charges was based solely on the credibility of Nafissatou Diallo. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, one of the lawyers who lobbied heavily for the case to be dismissed, said in an official statement, “Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that.”
Credibility. It’s a word I have come to fear and hate. It’s a word that means nothing and everything, both concepts based more on who you are, what you were wearing, why you were there, and all the other different ways to explain why a violent crime is, indeed, your fault. Credibility means nothing when people like Strauss-Kahn look at the legal system as their own private playground, and when money, power, and racial privilege can serve them and them alone. As for the rest of us, well, we are just on our own.
This verdict only serves to sting a bit more, as Strauss-Kahn’s own personal history, including another pending rape charge against him in France, was never questioned. It was a stark reminder, as if we really needed another one, that it is often rape victims who end up going on trial as opposed to actual rapists. Don’t mind the evidence of her ripped stockings, her torn shoulder ligament, the photos of her bruised vagina, and Strauss-Kahn’s DNA found in the room, in her mouth, and on her clothes.
“These past two and a half months have been a nightmare for me and my family,” Strauss-Kahn said publicly in a statement outside his townhouse where he resided on house arrest for the majority of the pending case.”I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence, and to the thousands of people who sent us their support personally and in writing. I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family, who have gone through this ordeal with me.” As Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Anne Sinclair, looked on while he spoke, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “And yet, you are still here. Why?”
Diallo still has a civil suit pending against Strauss-Kahn, as well as the New York Post, an action that only seems to serve the naysayers who believe that Diallo is only out for money. Money is a relatively benign concept when you think of the many ways you could possibly ever give back or compensate someone that has not only been sexually violated, but violated over and over, by being referred to as “the maid,” “illegal immigrant,” ” gold-digger,” or “hooker”. The othering of Diallo has been nothing short of sickening, as it somehow seems unimaginable that an immigrant, working class, women of color – an identity that has colored her entire experience, is not trustworthy. Despite all the hoops someone like Diallo has jumped through that reflect the average experience of immigrants in this country, it seems that people are mad that Diallo is just getting by in the system that has been created as opposed to being mad at the man who once helped the IMF keep that system in place.
Though Diallo has maintained that the events in her past, including her asylum application, were indeed wrong, she has emphasized over and over that it did not change the fact that she was still attacked by Strauss-Kahn, another example of the punishment that comes with reporting rape. No matter what is done to someone, if they do not reflect an utmost aura of purity or innocence, whatever that actually means, then they are not credible. This would not be so unjust if the same damning scrutiny was reflected in the investigations of rapists and sexual assailants. Yet, it is sadly not.
It is hard to look at this case and not feel a complete loss: for Diallo, for the failing legal system, for how deep rape culture really goes, and for ourselves, wondering when we will have to deal with those reprecussions, assuming that we have not already. Another person has been let go by the legal system, another person has again been told that yes, you can sexually assault someone and get away with it. Another woman was told this is what you get for coming forward, for tattling on something you brought on yourself. Another person has had it reinforced in their head that rape just isn’t that big of a deal.
I’d like to think otherwise to all these things, but the dismissal of Strauss-Khan tells me different.