The GEM Debate: Strauss-Kahn Is Cleared; Should His Accuser Face Fallout?

 Oh we’re gonna wade into some divisive territory today. The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at a Manhattan hotel a few months back.  A powerful man at home in front of the media and on the world stage, was now tabloid staple with photos of his so-called “perp walk”  splashed on covers round the world. Everyone had an opinion and salacious details were fodder for the news shows’ talking heads.

Now, three months later, charges against Strauss-Kahn have been dropped because prosecutors lost faith in the accuser’s testimony. In a public statement, Strauss-Kahn called the three months since his arrest, “a nightmare for me and my family.” So now, everyone is left to put the pieces of their lives back together. Sexual assault is nothing to joke about, nothing to whisper about, nothing to falsely accuse someone of. And before you get nuts, I’m not saying that his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, lied. But what if she did? Should there be repercussions for such an act?

I only ask because I have known two men who were falsely accused of sexual harassment, which is obviously different from assault. Both were eventually cleared, but their careers were in ruins, all because of an accusation. They “won” their cases, but hardly felt like celebrating. Sexual assault/harassment charges have to be taken very seriously. But in the case with the men I knew, their accusers were bitter women, hellbent on ruining lives. That they did, and possibly made proving future cases that much harder.

So now what? Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the IMF after these charges surfaced. Prior to this, he was seen as a leading candidate for the French presidency. Will he be able to resume his political career? And what of his accuser? Diallo’s attorney worries this dismissal sends the wrong message about accusing powerful men of a crime. But at the end of the day,  there are only two people who truly know what happened in that hotel room that night; the rest of us are left to piece it together based on the evidence, which clearly wasn’t enough in this case.

Let’s talk about this. Do you think there should be repercussions if someone lies about being raped? How do those accused but not convicted, begin to put their lives back together? Have you or do you know of anyone who’s ever been falsely accused of a crime? What was that like? Okay let’s debate!

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com . When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

17 Comments

  1. ella

    August 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I truly believe if you cry “Wolf!” and there is no wolf the next time people are going to look harder at YOU before taking you seriously. I don’t know if she lied or not, but don’t be stupid enough to talk about the $ asap on a recorded device! come on! And then you lied to get in the country??? And speaking OF our country and its judiciary system. Justice is blind, but social media is not. Sadly, it isn’t “innocent until proven guilty”, but “guilty until we want to forgive you.” Even the exonerated can’t just resume their lives. Devastating! It is a very muffed up thing to have vindictive people out there crying “Wolf!” for sport. As you said, Rene, their lives will never be the same which is sad. What’s sadder is that people don’t usually care until it happens to them and THEN they want to get mad and involved.

    I don’t know if DSK did it, but to go from presidential hopeful to perp walk all on someone’s word? Ugh!

  2. Irene

    August 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Do you think there should be repercussions if someone lies about being raped? How do those accused but not convicted, begin to put their lives back together? Have you or do you know of anyone who’s ever been falsely accused of a crime? What was that like? Okay let’s debate!
    *************************************************

    I don’t gem I am on the fence about this one…and I think it could cut both ways….1st of all maybe she wasn’t lying and this man had enough wealth and power to buy his way out of trouble…2nd maybe this lady lied and that is terrible to happen to anyone.

    Yesterday, David Zurawik, of the Baltimore Sun z on tv wrote a post about Will and Jada Smith and he basically called out the media, the same media he has built a career on, about running with a story on a freight train to no where…I cannot help but think that our whole culture has gone bananas. People are guilty in the media day and night of anything from affairs to crimes by the jury of social networking & media spin ad nauseum.

    I have never known anyone in my life to be accused of something they didn’t do. That said, I follow the Innocence Project online, and it happens all the time. It is like these stories take us by media storm and then there is the aftermath.

    I am not willing though to give Mr Strauss the benefit of the doubt. Money corrupts & I feel buys justice sometimes…but if I am wrong??? See it is a circle….

  3. Irene

    August 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    p.s. and yes if you lie underoath or to police there should be a punishment. Sadly though I found out in the Casey anthony story that perjury is hardly ever prosecuted from start to finish in Florida…I bet it is the same all over this country.

  4. Lisa Martin

    August 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Two comments/opinions:

    1) I don’t believe that the media should identify people, men or women, who are accused of sexual crimes. Sexual crimes have a more intense, devestating effect on reputation than other crimes, and therefore defendents should not be identified til proven guilty. We don’t identify victims of sexual assault in the media for the same reason, i.e. the more intense, devestating nature of the crime on the victim as compared to a victim or robbery for example.

    2. I think a false accuser of any type of crime, including rape, should be charged for making false accusations. At this time the innocent defendant has the right to sue accusers civilly. And many do. But I do not think they should be charged with a crime unless there is adquate evidence to present to a jury that they were lying and knew it. Just because cases are dropped for lack of evidence does not mean the accuser was lying. True victims will be afraid to come forward if they know they may end up charged as a result. But when there is evidence that an accuser plotted to lie and plant evidence, then there should be charges. Actually, that’s already on the books. Maybe it’s not enforced enough.

    LM

  5. m.e. johnson

    August 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    “… based on the evidence, which clearly wasn’t enough…”. We don’t know that. Evidence ‘get’s lost’, is withheld, is tampered with. I knew when the news first broke that this is what would happen. Didn’t know what reason would surface tho. I just know that in most cases, enough money and/or power will set one free.

    She does have a civil suit against him. But he can and probably will run for president of France if he wants to, whether she wins or not. France never did lose its admiration for him. He may offer her a token settlement just to make her ‘go away’ but I doubt it.

    Her credibility seems to be pretty much down the drain, for a myriad of reasons. His ~ altho he is known to be an ass around women ~ is intact. As Linda Ellerby used to say, “And so it goes.”

  6. Auntie Lisa

    August 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Hasn’t slander always been a crime?

    Yes, if you knowingly lie about someone to the detriment of their reputation, you should have to pay for that.

    I also believe if you lie and it costs other people money (remember the balloon boy?) you should have to pay for that, too.

  7. kt moxie

    August 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    So, I don’t think you can say this woman lied or cried wolf. If you look at the reasons for the dismissal, the prosecutors didn’t think she was a “credible witness” and didn’t think they could prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That doesn’t mean she lied. If you are someone who has lied in the past, and then you get raped, does that mean you didn’t get raped because you are a liar? No, it just means no one will believe you.

    And guess what? Really experienced rapists are good at picking vulnerable victims — that’s how they can continue to get away with it. Considering this guy has now had a string of women come forward saying that he has either tried to rape them, molested them, or been sexually violent with them (even when consenual), I don’t think this guy is as innocent as he would have us believe.

    That doesn’t mean that the prosecutors can prove a “he-said, she-said” rape case in court. Looks like the prosecutors decided to cut their losses on this one.

    And did anyone realize what she lied about in the past? She said she was gang raped in her native Guinea. You know why? Because she was told it would help her get refugee status in the U.S. She wasn’t trying to get some men in trouble — just stay here. And she was coached to do so. No, it’s not right, but I can understand why a desperate person would do such a thing.

  8. Cody Williams

    August 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I’ve been lied on. The biggest shock comes from believing a person would do that. It really messes with your brain. There are people out here who would lie on you and think nothing of it. Sociopaths, living, walking and laughing amongst us.

    Did this woman lie? My heart says she did not. Women with questionable pasts can get raped too. That does not make it right.

    This guy has a history of taking what he wants. He deserved everything he got for putting himself in the position for her to lie on him, if she did.

    Liars should be held accountable. But it’s such an easy thing for them to get away with. It’s hard to prove a negative.

  9. Rene Syler

    August 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    @m.e. if clearly wasn’t enough for them to go forward with the charges. Whether it really exists is another matter. But the fact is prosecutors did not feel comfortable going forward with what they had in hand.

  10. Rene Syler

    August 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    @kt: whether she lied about the alleged crime is up for debate, but she was caught (found out) lying about several things while giving her testimony to prosecutors; I agree with Cody and with you in that any woman can be a victim of sexual assault. But I can’t see how lying to prosecutors would help her case at all.

  11. Cody Williams

    August 24, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Oh, I want to add: Any woman who lies about being raped does a disservice to all raped women. Any woman who lies about being abused harms all abused women.

  12. m.e. johnson

    August 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    @Rene: Prosecutors SAID they didn’t have enough evidence blah blah. WE DON’T KNOW but that he was told to say that. I’m saying we. don’t. know.

  13. kt moxie

    August 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Rene: My concern is the if-then causation that is being put together here.: “IF the prosecutors are dropping the case because she lied to them, THEN she did not get raped. THEREFORE he is innocent, and has been wrongly accused.” There are way too many assumptions there…

    We don’t know why she lied to the prosecutors about other facts in her life. I could speculate many reasons why a traumatized person would not tell the truth to people who are trying to help her; I could also speculate reasons that she was trying to manipulate the system to get money and fame. But, based on what the prosecution said about why they dismissed the case — we really don’t know. They did not say that she lied about being raped. They just said she would not be credible in court. Unfortunately, the justice system is not clean and neat. It’s messy — it does not deal with inconsistent, less than perfect people well.

    Want to hear how messy it is? I knew of a case (several years ago) here in Detroit of a young man who was shot. He knew the man who shot him, and could point him out in the courtroom. The shooter’s girlfriend was a witness to the shooting. But, the shooter was acquitted. Want to know why? The young man who was shot was mentally ill, and didn’t make a whole lot of sense on the stand. And the girlfriend? While she didn’t lie about the shooting, she didn’t want to send her boyfriend to prison either — so her testimony was dashed with some crazy, too. The judge reprimanded — and I mean YELLED AT — the jury after they let the guy off. The judge tried to explain that witnesses will never be perfect, but the jury just felt there was still a “reasonable doubt” because they didn’t trust the girlfriend or the young man who got shot. So, the shooter went free. This is the reality of jury courts. And prosecutors know it.

  14. Rene Syler

    August 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    @kt: totally understand and get that. But as horrid as it may be at times, they have to go on facts; what they have and think they can prove. It’s totally a numbers game. They knew if they got this woman on the stand (like the Detroit case you mentioned) the defense would rip her apart. An acquittal would amount to a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources. So they played the numbers game and figured they would not win. It’s that simple. Does that make it right? Nope. But that is the reality. Sucks though, without question. because we may never know the truth

  15. Will Jones

    August 25, 2011 at 5:03 am

    I think the problem here is mainly the media. There should be laws protecting the rights of some “accused” of a crime from having their named plastered across every paper in the country. If women can be prosecuted for reporting what they may believe to be a crime, even more crimes will go unreported, but if a man’s career can be ruined just because he “may” have done something, than the crime against him was wasn’tthe fact the he was accused, but the fact that people reacted to the accusation before he was ever found quilty.

  16. kt moxie

    August 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Rene: I think we are on the same page here. I think the prosecutors are playing a numbers game here. Did they think they could WIN this case? Probably not. But that is not necessarily a reflection of “true” justice — just what they could prove.

    Therefore, I don’t think we should be speculating on the motivations for what maid said. We just don’t know. We only know the prosecutors didn’t think they could win the case.

    And we certainly should not conclude that she should be punished for coming forward. What does this say to rape victims? If you can’t prove your case — we’ll get you back for false accusation! I don’t think we want a society that promotes that.

    Will: I’m with you here. Any damage done was propagated by the media, not the alleged victim.

    So, do we think that Casey Anthony should get the same kind of protection from the media since she was not convicted? Strauss-Kahn may have lost his job/career over this, but people are making death threats to Casey Anthony….

  17. SoCalGal

    August 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    The prosecutors didn’t necessarily disbelieve her, they just didn’t think they could prove their case with what they had and the inconsistencies in her story. People thought the woman who accused the Duke lacrosse players should have been charged with lying about being raped, but nothing came of that.

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