Photo via International Monetary Fund
On Monday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s legal troubles in the USA came to an end. But this was not exactly the conclusion I had imagined. On July 1, 2011, when it was first reported that the criminal case against him was falling apart, it appeared that the story would turn out as a victory for defendants’ rights and true gender equality over media bias, presumption of guilt, and the sexist stereotype that all men are sexual aggressors and all women are victims. Unlike those who were convinced of Strauss-Kahn’s guilt merely because he was a man who was accused of rape, his wife, Anne Sinclair, showed that she was a true feminist by coming to his rescue, bailing him out of jail, financially supporting him, and fiercely defending him against his innumerable and vocal critics. It was truly a wonderful moment when they strode out of the courthouse, smiling slightly, his arm around her shoulders, when he was set free without bail.
But the victory was short-lived. Even before the sexual assault charges against him were officially dismissed in August of last year, public opinion, which had swung briefly in Strauss-Kahn’s direction when his accuser’s lies and inconsistencies first came to light, began to turn against him once more. Journalists and editorialists around the world vilified and shamed him for his reputation as a libertine. Self-professed “feminists” held up signs outside the courthouse to protest the dismissal of the charges. Instead of being welcomed back into French politics – and perhaps even the presidential race which in he had intended to be a candidate – he was shunned and bullied by his former allies. A French court decided to essentially convict him, with no evidence, on a writer’s decade-old allegation of sexual assault. Another French court decided to hit him with criminal charges for “aggravated pimping” despite the fact that there has never been any suggestion that he made money from prostitution. When he gave a speech about the global economy in Cambridge, England, hordes heckled him and threw things at him. And, worst of all, Sinclair went back on everything that she had so bravely stood for earlier, deciding to dump him and kick him out of the Paris apartment that was his home.
Monday’s settlement in the civil case between Strauss-Kahn and his accuser, former hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, was far from the triumphant conclusion I had envisioned, but it was not entirely negative either. Although Strauss-Kahn still has the “pimping” charges hanging over his head (this Wednesday he’ll learn whether they will be dismissed), he must feel relieved to no longer have to worry about the New York case, or the pricey legal fees that it doubtless entailed. Against the odds, he is making a comeback as an economic advisor, having recently founded a consulting company called “Parnasse” and spoken at conferences in Ukraine, Morocco, South Korea, and Israel. He has a beautiful new apartment, which he showed off in a recent interview with Le Point. And he possibly has a new girlfriend, the communications director for France TV, Myriam L’Aouffir.
Was the settlement a just outcome? Here are a few thoughts that I have.