It was technically only a coincidence that France’s leading Socialist Party presidential candidate engaged in his latest sexual assault on the same weekend that major television networks promoted such new shows as the “Playboy Club,” “Pan Am” (based on stewardesses of the 1960’s) and a remake of “Charlie’s Angels.” The only surprising element was that International Monetary Fund head and French Socialist leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested by New York City police for a sexual attack against a hotel maid that news reports reveal is part of a longtime pattern.
Why did Strauss-Kahn think he could get away with it? Because he had many times before. We can now expect an all-out assault on the integrity of the 32-year old African immigrant who was the target of Strauss-Kahn’s attacks. Meanwhile, Hollywood is sending its own retro messages about women accepting sexual harassment as a job condition, as the female actors required to prance around in “corsets, fishnets and stilettos” as a condition of employment either accept such roles or face unemployment.
The story of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest while trying to flee the United States to avoid sexual assault charges could make a great movie, particularly if it showed his long history of prior sexual assaults. What better evidence of the worldwide drive to return women to the pre-feminist era than for the media to finally be forced to acknowledge that the head of the International Monetary Fund and the leading French Socialist presidential candidate has regularly assaulted women – and that this has not stalled his career.
And perhaps even advanced it.
A Profile in Courage
According to media reports, the maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite at the Hotel Sofitel believing it was unoccupied. He then came out of the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway to the foyer, and pulled her into a bedroom and began his sexual assault. After she pulled away and tried to escape, he grabbed her and assaulted her in the bathroom.
It took incredible courage for a young immigrant maid to report a sexual assault by a powerful man staying in a $3,000 per night hotel suite. Media reports are already scrutinizing her employment record – which her employer says is “satisfactory” – and you can just imagine the money Strauss-Kahn is spending on investigators seeking any information they can get their hands on to destroy her credibility and save his career.
Other victims of Strauss-Kahn’s sexual attacks chose silence, knowing the risks to career and personal reputation that can come from charging a powerful man with such a crime.
According to a New York Times report, Mr. Strauss-Kahn behaved aggressively toward a young female journalist and novelist, Tristane Banon, in 2002. Banon stated during a 2007 television interview on Paris Première, a cable channel, “that a French politician – whom she later said was Mr. Strauss-Kahn – had tried to rape her in an empty apartment in Paris after she had contacted him for a book she was writing.”
According to Banon, “he wanted to grab my hand while answering my questions, and then my arm. We ended up fighting, since I said clearly, ‘No, no.’ We fought on the floor, I kicked him, he undid my bra, he tried to remove my jeans.” Banon “contacted a well-known lawyer who already had ‘a pile of files on Mr. Strauss-Kahn,’” but never filed a complaint. “I didn’t dare; I didn’t wish to be the girl who had a problem with a politician for the rest of my life,” she said.
Since the maid came forward and Strauss-Kahn was arrested, reports are widespread that Banon’s experience was not unique, and that the IMF and French Socialist Party knowingly allowed a man widely charged with being a sexual predator to assume a leadership position.
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