Defending Strauss-Kahn: ‘He’s Too Weak to Rape a Hotel Maid!’

I know these lawyers are just doing their jobs, but I found this article on Strauss-Kahn’s defense really disturbing.

“You really have to attack the witness’s credibility” in sexual assault cases, a Manhattan defense lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said. “While it may seem morally unseemly to the public, it’s legally appropriate and we have to do the best we can for our clients.”

He added: “You have to make this into a money thing at the end. Has she defaulted on loans or bounced checks?”

It’s useful to know that bouncing a check forever immunizes you against being sexually assaulted.

I also paused at this bit:

Some details of a potential defense are already coming into focus, a person close to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s defense team said. The defense is expected to pursue the issue of whether it is even physically possible for an unarmed man, who is not particularly physically imposing, to force a person to engage in oral sex.

That high-priced lawyers are resting their defense on ‘he’s too weak to rape!’ and ‘she’s a gold-digging skank!’ demonstrate the dysfunctionality of American discourse around sexual assault.

In America, we want our victims to be hella victimy. Rape is something that happens exclusively to women, exclusively at the hands of strangers, and exclusively as they are walking home late at night in parking lots or college campuses. Women are not raped by people they know, or people they once wanted sexual contact with, or on nights when they wanted to get laid. It especially doesn’t happen to the kinds of people who default on loans. 

More pernicious, though, is the idea that a man like Strauss-Kahn is incapable of forcing a woman to do something she doesn’t want to do because he’s so weak! And frail! And unimposing!

Rape doesn’t have to happen through the use of physical force alone. Someone in Strauss-Kahn’s position could easily augment a weak threat of force with other kinds of violence.

In the scenario he’s accused of, all he would have to do is grab the victim’s wrists and say something like ‘I’m the president of an international organization. You’re an immigrant hotel maid. If you scream, I’ll tell your boss that you stole my watch. Who are they going to believe?’ Not all rape takes place with the rapist’s hand over the victim’s mouth.

On the specific case of Strauss-Kahn, I’m completely Switzerland. Reading newspaper articles to determine someone’s guilt is like sorting someone’s trash to determine their astrological sign. Maybe he did it, maybe he didn’t. But over and over, when we lack the information required find the truth between he-said and she-said, we fall back on our ugliest arguments.

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