It came as little surprise yesterday that former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s rape case was dismissed out of court, leaving him a free man. Well, for now anyway. When he returns to France, he will have to contend with another potential case from writer Tristane Banon, who claims that he raped her during an interview eight years ago.
They say that there’s no smoke without fire, and given that DSK has a history of seducing women, these claims do not exactly seem far-fetched. The case was dismissed due to the questionable testimonies given by his alleged victim, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo. And whilst this may be a miscarriage of justice for Diallo and a triumph for a man who can afford a world class legal team, Banon speaking out against Strauss-Kahn is some small victory for the fight against this untouchable woman-toucher. People may have jumped to conclusions about a cleaner trying to sue a multi-millionaire, but a successful author? Perhaps now the likelihood of DSK’s innocence will appear as dubious as it always has to me.
There are two serious issues highlighted by this case that give a pretty damning overview of the justice system as a whole. Firstly, that those with wealth and power are able to dodge the law, and secondly, that conviction numbers for rape cases are so low that they continue to discourage victims from coming to the police and consequently spread the message that people are able to commit such crimes without fear of retribution.
With regard to the first point, this is certainly nothing new or shocking, but the fact that those with bigger bank balances are granted the ability to evade the justice system, the very foundation of morality in any society, is frankly disgusting. We’ve seen it all before: intoxicated C-list celebrities driving under the influence and getting off with a few hours of community service (which serves only to boost their public profile), or politicians fraudulently claiming second, third and fourth homes on their expenses only to be let off with a slap on the wrist. In the world of the average Joe, these crimes have a price, but in the culture of celebrity that this society seems to wantonly nurture and encourage, those who make the front pages of OK! magazine do not have to respect the law. Apparently.
I’m not suggesting that every claim made against those in the spotlight is true – in fact, far from it. There is no doubt that fame comes at a price, and for some, this means fending off a stream of allegations that genuinely have no truth. But by putting the rich and powerful on a pedestal, this makes them believe that they are above the justice system, and can quite literally get away with murder.
But perhaps the most worrying thing to come out of the DSK debacle is the discouragement people, largely women, will feel about contacting the authorities if they have been the victims of a sexual attack. Banon, a well-respected literary figure who can afford a top notch lawyer, believed that Diallo’s claims enabled her to share her experiences at the hands of Strauss-Kahn, but for many, this is not the case. It is estimated that around 6% of rape cases in the United Kingdom result in a conviction, and it is these paltry figures that largely deter people from coming forward and bringing their attackers to justice. That a case which started out seeming as though Strauss-Kahn would definitely face retribution has crumbled so monumentally cannot be helping this situation.
Ultimately, it becomes difficult to want to abide by the law in the way we are intended to when so many are able to openly disrespect it and get away with this scot free. Working hard should certainly afford people privileges that others do not get, but completely ignoring a country’s moral and legal code is not one of them.