Strauss-Kahn rape case dropped: A 'bad message' to vulnerable women?

The abrupt end to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case caused consternation among groups that say it sets too high a bar for some women to come forward.

L'affaire DSK est terminé.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Tuesday asked the New York State Supreme Court to dismiss all sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and the man once thought to be the next president of France. The judge in the case agreed.

In a 25-page document Mr. Vance detailed his doubts about the case in which a housekeeper at the Sofitel Hotel alleged she had been sexually attacked by Mr. Strauss-Kahn. The main reason for the dismissal was a stream of lies from the woman, Nafissatou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant. The lies caused Vance to doubt the woman’s credibility on the witness stand.

The abrupt end to the case – which began with Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in May – caused consternation, especially in the African immigrant community, among feminist groups, and social justice organizations.

“It sends a very bad message to women who are vulnerable to any sexual abuse by men for sexual power,” says Yasmeen Hassan, the global director of Equality Now, an international human rights organization. “Unless you are Mother Teresa, don’t come forward in a case like this.”

Outside the courtroom where DSK – as he is known in the media – had his court appearance Tuesday, protesters yelled, “Put him on trial!” and “DSK shame on you!”

“All I’m asking for is a trial,” said Gwen Goodwin, one of the protesters. “Obviously, something happened.”

“No woman should be treated that way,” said Nelsy Garcia, a young protester from The Healing Center, a nonprofit dedicated to the intervention and prevention of family violence and abuse based in Brooklyn.

Strauss-Kahn maintains his innocence, saying the sex was consensual. His DNA was found on the clothes of Ms. Diallo.

In the course of the investigation, District Attorney Vance found the woman had lied about an alleged gang rape she said had taken place in Guinea. Then, he found she cheated on her taxes for two years. And, shortly after the alleged attack at the Sofitel, a recording surfaced of her speaking with an individual who was in jail for drug charges. She indicated in the tape she knew Strauss-Kahn was wealthy.

It did not help her case that her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, allowed her to give long interviews with the media. And, even before the criminal case went to trial, he filed a civil lawsuit in the Bronx, seeking “damages in an amount to be determined at trial,” in addition to punitive damages.

Ms. Hassan, of Equality Now, who is critical of Vance says Thompson also “mismanaged” the case. “She was caught in the middle of all these men using her for political gain,” she says. “Her lawyer made many mistakes.”

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Thompson asked New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus to appoint a special prosecutor. His request was immediately denied. He then appealed that decision to an appellate court, which also turned him down. Immediately afterwards Vance began a press conference to explain why he dropped the case. The press conference ended abruptly when shocks from Tuesday’s earthquake sent Vance and reporters fleeing from the room.

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