DNA Seen Key to Rape Charges Against IMF Chief

Monday, May 16, 2011

New York prosecutors are investigating another possible assault by the IMF's Strauss-Khan. In Sunday's incident involving a maid at a luxury hotel the DNA evidence will be critical, says Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor.

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Hotel Reacted on Victim's Behalf

The alleged victim's managers at the New York Sofitel hotel where the incident took place appeared, in press accounts, to have been quick to help the maid track down Strauss-Kahn and prevent him from leaving the country.

Fatima Goss Graves, vice-president of education and employment at the National Women's Law Center, says under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers at hotels are required to take action when a worker is placed in a hostile environment, even if the harm was caused by a guest.

"An employer would be required and have an obligation to correct and address a hostile work environment even if that environment was created by a non-employee," Goss Graves said in an interview with WeNews.

The hotel's behavior on behalf of the victim strikes Murphy as "favorable" for her, indicating that managers "know her character and that she is a credible woman who responded in a manner they believed was appropriate in the circumstances.

'Vast Power Differential'

"This is one of those cases with such a vast power differential between the individuals it can provoke different narratives from supporters on both sides," says Murphy. "He will argue he's being exploited because of his wealth, fame and political status by a desperately poor woman who saw dollar signs. She will say he saw her and thought perfect victim. 'I can take advantage and nobody will believe her over me--and she'll never tell anyone for fear of losing a job she probably needs just to keep food on the table.' "

Murphy says other accounts of sexual misconduct by Strauss-Kahn wouldn't bode well for him. "It doesn't prove guilt but puts him in a category far away from 'esteemed head of the IMF.' "

The IMF issued a press statement on Sunday, May 15, saying the global financing entity was fully functional and would have no comment on the case.

Murphy said that if DNA tests corroborate the rape claims of the 32-year-old African immigrant, Strauss-Khan's defense could turn to consent, or framing arguments along the lines of "she stole my DNA from the sheets and planted in on her body."

Murphy doubts the defense will argue that the woman consented to any of the alleged activity "because of who she is and the fact that he fled the scene."

Murphy said DNA evidence "makes a case like this eminently more provable because it prevents a powerful man like this from saying 'she's lying for money - or for political reasons.' "


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Katherine Rausch contributed reporting to this article.

For more information:

Reuters Report from Monday:

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