The whole bizarre case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is falling apart. It’s distressing in one way because it will now make it harder for women to report rape, especially when the accused is rich and powerful. But I can’t help thinking that Will Saletan of Slate calls this one right–the collapse of the case, barring any more outré revelations, is “a victory for corroboration and justice:”
This isn’t a defeat for women or the justice system. It’s a victory for the power of corroboration.
But bruising alone doesn’t prove rape. And semen only proves sex, which Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers never denied. So the case seemed likely to boil down to he-said-she-said. And that’s scary, because without corroborating evidence, there’s a high risk of terrible injustice. A guilty man might get away with rape. Or an innocent man might be convicted.
We’ve now been spared that nightmare, thanks to the availability and diligent pursuit of evidence against which to check the accuser’s credibility. The government has found external ways to test her veracity. And she has flunked.
The first test, according to a June 30 letter from the district attorney’s office, is the woman’s previous application for asylum, submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2004. In it, she claimed to have suffered persecution, beating, and incarceration in her native Guinea. After Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, investigators asked the woman about her life in Guinea. Her story didn’t match what she had reported in the application. According to the letter, she admitted to investigators that what she had reported on the application was false.
She also made a call to a guy in a detention center for alleged drug possession in which she said that Strauss-Kahn had plenty of money, and “I know what I am doing.” Card keys also provided evidence that the housekeeper had cleaned a room after Strauss-Kahn’s instead of reporting the alleged rape, a highly unusual way for a real victim to behave.
None of this would have been possible without the layers of electronic surveillance and record-keeping-card keys, phone taps, tax returns, public housing forms, bank and billing data-that pervade our lives. We often complain that these devices and databases impinge on our freedom. Today, they have given a man his freedom. And they have given all of us hope that even when only two people were in the room, we can find ways to ascertain who’s telling the truth.
I am sure that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s $800 an hour lawyers are effective. But, if the story stays as most recently reported, the housekeeper didn’t help women either.
Update: I figured there would be developments in the DSK case, and apparently there are. Fox News is reporting that a French novelist is filling suit against him in France for sexual assault. Whatever happened in the Sofitel hotel room, it seems to have inspired this suit.