Friday, August 26, 2011

Why we need to care about DSK's charges being dropped

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses sexual assault in concrete and theoretical ways.

I recognize that I've been an incredibly lazy blogger as of late. I apologize about that. I've been extremely busy.

And then beloved Jack Layton died and I've been reeling.

But one thing that's gotten be riled up as of late is the entire case of DSK.

Unless you have the pleasure of living under a rock, you've heard about Dominique Straus-Kahn. Even my last blog post was about the joy of being famous, referring in part to DSK's treatment even though he face(d) serious charges of sexual assault.

Since that last post, the victim in this whole story as come forward. We now know her Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant womyn of colour who is also a single mother and chambermaid in a New York hotel. She came forward and told her story.

She says that she walked in to clean DSK's room and found him partially undressed/exposing himself. She apologized, he told her she didn't have to and then sexually assaulted her.

DSK has since done what most men do in those situations do: Claimed it was consensual.

It was recently announced that all charges against DSK in the United States have been dropped because of inconsistencies on the part of Ms. Diallo. He will however go on to face similar charges in France for a sexual assault that he committed against a journalist there. Or rather, is "alleged" to have committed.

And that's where I start feeling a little.... stabby.

As an outspoken advocate against sexual violence and as someone who works as a front-line, support worker, Ms. Diallo's story is all to damn common.

On the one hand, you have a poor, single mother who also happens to be an immigrant of colour. On the other, you have a rich, powerful and 'important' man. In many circumstances, people like DSK would deny having any 'sexual relations with that womyn' (Sound familiar?) But in this case, like in Clinton's case, once you get to the point where all evidence leads to some sexual contact, then they play the 'Cried rape' card.

"It was entirely consensual!" they say "It makes total sense that a womyn who makes barely over minimum wage in a precarious job would risk it all to bone me, even though it was not until she saw my face on TV that she knew I was famous. And even though I'm a married rich powerful man, it makes total sense that she would just walk into my room and say 'I WANT TO SUCK YOUR COCK' and then go home. Yup that makes perfect sense".

Let's not kid ourselves folks. That is exactly what DSK is saying. I'm just doing you the favour of sparing you the BS elements of it.

Meanwhile, DSK's wife diligently stands by his side, even though at best, he had oral sex with a complete stranger in a hotel room and at worst, he sexually assaulted her.

"But! But! He should still be in the running for France's President and we should definitely be supporting him, because 'bitches be lyin'."

This narrative happens over and over and over. And then we wonder why 8 womyn a day are sexually assaulted in Ottawa and only 1 reports it to the police. (Source: OCTEVAW)

Because it doesn't matter if you're white, of colour, rich, poor, able bodied, disAbled, queer, straight, etc. It doesn't even really matter if he is either. (Although that's not always the case, particularly around men of colour, queer men and men with disAbilities or mental illnesses, but that's a whole other story).

It doesn't matter what the circumstances are because 'bitches by lying' and 'men getting framed'. ALL THE TIME.

And so in this case, you have a womyn saying she was sexually assaulted by a complete stranger. She got a high powered lawyer, had a publicity machine and she STILL wasn't believed. So do you think that someone who was assaulted by their partner/coach/professor/parent is going to be believed? What if that person was intoxicated? Good luck with that.

Nobody knows for sure what happened except for Ms. Diallo and DSK. Let me clear about that. I cannot prove that she was sexually assaulted just like I can't prove that he didn't. What I can say is that the way in which we talk about this case says a great deal about the culture we live in and the way we treat survivors.

Language is important. I wish I was half as eloquent as fabulous anti-violence advocate Jackson Katz but since I am not, I will let him say it for me "Every time we call [Ms. Diallo] an accuser, we undermine her credibility and bolster [DSK's]". AMEN.

I know that personally, I use the term 'survivor' but I know that's not legally appropriate or universal. I use the term 'survivor' for very political reasons, but also because it's what people who've been sexually assaulted have asked me to refer to them as. So I listen. But I know that we can't all use that term and that's fine.

But in this case, I'll take victim 100x before 'accuser'. Using the term 'accuser' in the case of DSK is the equivalent of the time the New York Post called her a 'hooker', even though they had absolutely no proof she was a sex worker. (Newsflash: She isn't).

Why is that we insist that DSK is innocent until proven guilty but Ms. Diallo? "Oh clearly she's a lying, money grubbing prostitute who is accusing him of a crime he didn't commit!"

The double standard is so blatantly obvious that it's shocking how rarely it is mentioned.

Yes, in strictly legal terms, he is accused of a crime by Ms. Diallo and that makes Ms. Diallo the accuser. I understand this. But let's not pretend that legally, socially or otherwise, we treat sexual assault as we do other crimes. We just don't. When people say they've been robbed and have 'proof' that their items are stolen, do we say 'The supposed victim of a robbery'? No, we don't. Even though people make up that their items were stolen, their houses were burnt down, their cars were jacked, etc. So if we treat the accused of sexual assault with kid gloves, why don't we do the same for the 'victims' of sexual assault?

All in all, the DSK case leaves me feeling sad.

There are no winners here. Well, except for the patriarchy, of course. In this case, the patriarchy keeps on marchin' on.