(WOMENSENEWS)–In light of rape accusations facing International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Khan, Women’s eNews asked Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor and legal commentator, to comment on possible aspects of the case.
Murphy has written for Women’s eNews about why intruding on rape victims bodies to gather DNA evidence can be a harsh and unnecessary when a woman’s privacy has already been violated and when the main argument revolves around whether the disputed sexual activity was consensual; not whether it happened or who was involved.
But in this case, Murphy says DNA evidence is critical to establishing the fact that a sexual event occurred, "which could put to rest any claim that she’s making the story up out of whole cloth."
On Monday a New York judge ordered Strauss-Kahn to be held without bail until his next court appearance, slated for Friday, May 20.
Prosecutors are investigating whether he may have engaged in similar conduct once before and consider the accused a flight risk, according to a Reuters report.
Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn said he would plead not guilty to charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. A French writer is also expected to file a claim against Strauss-Kahn for a sexual assault nine years ago, reported the Guardian.
Business Insider on Monday ran a story saying that Strauss-Kahn gave an interview to the French publication Liberation just a few weeks ago, on April 28, saying he could easily see himself becoming the victim of a "sex trap."
The rape allegations are high-profile and surprising–given the identity of the accused–yet the crime of forced sexual contact remains far from rare in the U.S. A 2006 study found that during that year alone over 1 million women in the United States had been raped. The author of the study, Drug-facilitated, Incapacitated and Forcible Rape: A National Study, is Dr. Dean Kilpatrick of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.
"Our estimates do not appear to support the widely held belief that rape has significantly declined in recent decades," Kilpatrick found, according to a summary on Legal Momentum.
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: