Dominique Strauss-Kahn (Google 'rutting chimpanzee' if you've been hiding under a rock all summer) walked out of court today 'innocent' of sexually assaulting a maid in his hotel room. Prosecutors dropped the case against him because they could not prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the maid was telling the truth. Innocent or guilty, a crime has been committed against women and rape victims. Here are three reasons why:
1. Sexual attacks against women will increase.
The charges against DSK have not been dropped because there is no evidence of sexual assault. Evidence contained in the prosecution's case points to possible use of force.
The prosecutor's case fell apart because, under current law, sexual assault cases rise and fall on the personal credibility of the victim and the maid, they concluded, had none and therefore caused the evidence to be "insufficient".
So, a possible sexual aggressor who has had other similar allegations made against him has walked free without having to face any kind of trial. His potential political comeback as a candidate for the President of France could well be bolstered by his infamy and this dramatic turn in circumstances.
Why should the case be more about the accuser than the accused? It sends a message that the high burden of proof means that abusers are hard to convict. The burden of proof weighs heavily on the abused and, arguably, the prosecution threw in the towel too early in this case. The result from this highly public failure of a sexual assault prosecution could, sadly, cause a ripple effect in sexual attacks against women.
2. Sexual assault victims need to have lived a 'lie-free' life to get a conviction.
It seems clear from documented evidence that Nafissatou Diallo has told a lifetime's worth of lies. Her admission that she had previously cried wolf on a rape allegation adds insult to a genuine victim's injury. But does that mean that she can never, ever be a real victim of a sexual assault?
If her "untruthfullness makes it impossible to credit her" does it mean that all rape victims should have led a wholly truthful life or forever remain silent about their abuse? I fear that the public profile of this case will encourage the underlying presumption that only good girls get raped, bad girls who lie were asking for it.
3. Women look weaker. Full stop.
The women who have been unfortunate enough to be involved with this sordid story have come out the worse for it: Diallo for playing the part of a downtrodden victim - the lowly maid reduced to gagging up some alpha male's sperm on a hotel carpet floor - whether it was consensual or not; Mrs. DSK for being 'le Barbie-doll-doormat-wife' and standing by her, at its most flattering, philandering husband.
The burden of proof 'beyond reasonable doubt' exists on the basis that it is far worse to convict an innocent person than to let a guilty person go free. I am not sure if an innocent woman has been convicted of lying and a guilty man has gone free; without a proper trial the full facts will never come to light. For women and victims of sexual assault, however, this very public failure of a sexual assault case is a downright disappointing disgrace.