Posted Thursday, July 28, 2011, at 12:55 PM
When it first emerged that the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was falling apart, I wrote that even if the victim lied on her asylum application, it didn’t mean that she wasn’t raped and that even those who run afoul of the law are entitled to the same protections as the rest of us.
But then the New York Post started its campaign to show that she was a prostitute, and “evidence” emerged that she had called a friend in an Arizona jail and speaking in Fulani, said “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,” making it look as if she were trying to hustle a wealthy and powerful man.
Those of us who believed the victim, who we now know is named Nafissatou Diallo, were left shaking our heads and sputtering, “Well … well ... he probably still did it” without much to go on except the conviction of our beliefs.
But no one else besides the Post picked up on the prostitute angle, and now Diallo is suing the Post for defamation. Even more relevant, perhaps, she has met with prosecutors and listened to the eight hours of taped phone calls with them. Her lawyer says that what Diallo said in one of those calls was “She said: ‘I didn’t know who he was. We fought each other. Because he wasn’t able to take off my clothes, he put his penis in my mouth. He touched me. They took me to the hospital, and they arrested him.’ ” Kind of the opposite of what earlier reports said.
It’s hard to shake off the belief that there was some kind of smear campaign against the victim. When the NYT originally reported that the case was falling apart, the details they offered were that she lied on her asylum application and that she had “links to people involved in criminal activities.” But from there, within days, everything snowballed to the point where one could easily be led to believe that she was using her position as a maid to turn tricks for wealthy clients and that she finally find a big one ripe for a shakedown.
The thing is, Diallo’s actual behavior this whole time hasn’t matched up with that description. If she were a prostitute or involved in money laundering or drug dealing, wouldn’t she have thought twice before she went to the police with her rape accusation? But she went to them. And since then, she has stood by her story and even gone public—a remarkable step for an alleged victim to take—in interviews with Newsweek and Good Morning America.
It would be nice if the new news in this case had the same snowball effect that the previous news—the “leaks” that destroyed Diallo’s credibility—had. But as Amanda pointed out earlier this week, the bar is higher for those who allege rape than it is for others. And so I’m left believing what I believed weeks ago when Diallo’s credibility was first questioned: Something happened in that hotel, and Diallo has a right to see the man she accused face trial. But I’m not sure it will ever happen.