In the continuing adventures of a rich white sexual predator, Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears to have escaped prosecution in France for his 2003 attack on journalist Tristane Banon.
“For lack of sufficient elements of evidence, prosecution cannot be undertaken on the charge of attempted rape,” the prosecutor’s office said. However, it said, “facts that could be qualified as sexual assault have been acknowledged.” Problem is, French law has a three-year statute of limitations on prosecution for sexual assault, and the attack on Banon took place seven years ago. Because of this, she had sought to have him prosecuted for attempted rape, which carries a ten year statute of limitations.
CNN reports that “Strauss-Kahn admitted to “sexual aggression” against Banon at the time.” Banon said that DSK invited her to an empty apartment for the book interview, where he locked the door and then attacked her. According to the New York Times: “they ended up tussling on the floor, with the politician trying to open her jeans and bra and putting his fingers in her mouth and underwear.”
Banon managed to fight him off, escape the apartment and lock herself in her car outside. She called her mother, Socialist politician Anne Mansouret, from the car and when Mansouret arrived about an hour and a half later, she said she found her daughter still locked in the car and looking “roughed up.” The heel of one shoe was broken, Mansouret recalled to CNN. But Mansouret told her daughter not to file a complaint out of concern that filing charges against DSK would ruin her career. Mansouret later admitted that in retrospect, she felt terribly guilty for not encouraging her daughter to report DSK to the police.
This demonstrates the obvious problem with a statute of limitations: no one should be able to get away with sexual assault simply because three years have gone by. But frankly, the statute of limitations isn’t the main problem here. The problem is that the French prosecutor decided to take the easy way out and say it was a only sexual assault so they could slip through the loophole of limitations instead of having to prosecute it as attempted rape….even though it was obviously that as well. Because Banon fought DSK off before he managed to penetrate her vaginally, prosecutors claim they don’t have “sufficient evidence” that it was attempted rape. Apparently when a man sexually assaults a woman, tries to physically subdue her and rip her pants off, French prosecutors don’t think it logically follows that he’s trying to rape her. Either those prosecutors are fucking morons…or they simply want to make this case go away. I suspect it’s both.
Still, by essentially admitting to sexual assault and being called out for it by the authorities, DSK drove another nail into his political coffin. It seems fairly certain that his career will not recover:
There was little chance Mr. Strauss-Kahn would have been convicted in the French criminal case or served time in jail, but his political career has been badly damaged by the charges, and the French seem almost bored now with him and the case.
“The sword of Damocles has been lifted” from him in terms of prosecution, said Bruno Jeudy, the political editor of Le Journal du Dimanche, a weekly newspaper. “Will it change anything? No, not in the immediate future.”
Mr. Strauss-Kahn “is out of the political film,” Mr. Jeudy said, describing the television interview as a kind of funeral. “We would need very serious economic trouble to request his help.”
The one bit of good news is that l’affaires DSK may have created enough revulsion and exposed enough ugly rape apologism that it creates a cultural turning point in France, much in the same way that Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas 20 years ago turned the corner on the way sexual harassment was discussed and prosecuted in the US.
The two cases did bring a strong feminist reaction in France, however, with women’s groups citing renewed interest in their work and new understanding, especially among younger men and women, of the line between flirting and sexual aggression.Olivia Cattan, president of “Paroles de Femmes,” a feminist group, said on Thursday that the French prosecutor’s decision “leaves a bitter taste” but “is half a victory,” given that “they acknowledge the crime” even if the limits of the law prevent punishment. The case proves that Ms. Banon “is not a liar,” Ms. Cattan said.
Since 2006, she said, her group has been pressing for an extension of the statute of limitations for sexual assault from three years to 10, as currently the case with rape, which she said required evidence of penetration. “This case is symbolic enough to make it work,” she said.
Let’s hope that’s the case.