Joan Smith: The myths about women who cry rape

Share
Related Topics

Three months ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was one of the world's most powerful bankers and even had his eye on the Presidency of France. In a matter of weeks, he has been arrested, charged with serious sexual offences, forced to resign from his job and then suddenly, in a stunning reversal, released from his onerous bail conditions. By last weekend, the plot had begun to resemble a Greek drama with DSK as the victim of a miscarriage of justice, readying himself for the most astonishing of political resurrections in the final act.

Enter, stage left, a young French journalist called Tristane Banon. It isn't her first appearance in the piece but, just as one set of charges against the former head of the IMF appears to be on the point of collapse, she has taken over the role of his potential Nemesis. Two days ago, Banon filed a criminal complaint in which she alleged that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002. This has been greeted with everything from total incredulity to a muted acknowledgement that assumptions about DSK's swift return to frontline politics in France were premature.

Why, demand his most loyal supporters, did Banon wait nine years to file a case? They believe that men like DSK, who are widely regarded as "grands seducteurs" in France, are vulnerable to false accusations by women who've misunderstood their intentions or exploited their weakness. This certainly isn't how it looks from the standpoint of people who work for organisations that support victims; the disbelief that has greeted Banon's complaint is common in sexual assault cases, reflecting a series of mistaken assumptions or "rape myths" about how victims behave.

First, it's not unusual for victims to wait years before they feel able to report their experience; in this instance Banon confided in her mother Anne Mansouret, a Socialist councillor, at the time of the alleged assault. DSK was a hugely powerful figure in the French Socialist party, a former finance minister and potential presidential candidate, and Mansouret talked her daughter out of making a formal complaint, a course of action she now says she regrets.

But in 2007 Banon appeared on a TV show and said she had been attacked five years earlier by a politician whom she went to interview at his apartment. DSK's name was bleeped out on transmission, but it is clear that Banon's accusation long pre-dates his arrest on sexual assault charges in New York.

Nor is it unusual for victims to take action only when events appear to suggest that another woman has been attacked by the same assailant. It's often only when a woman realises that her experience wasn't an isolated incident that she goes to the police. In the most extreme British example, more than 100 women have come forward to identify themselves as possible victims of the Black Cab rapist, John Worboys, since he was convicted of attacks on 12 women in 2009.

Police or prosecutors sometimes decide an alleged victim wouldn't make a good witness, but that doesn't mean an assault didn't take place. Le Monde reported yesterday that the director of the Crime Victims Treatment Centre at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Harlem, who examined DSK's first accuser on the day of the alleged assault, found her "in a state of shock, very shaken, very affected.... I didn't doubt her testimony". It now seems unlikely that events in Suite 2806 at the New York Sofitel will ever be scrutinised in court, which is the proper place for such conflicting accounts to be tested. Instead, attention has switched to Banon, whose mother says she took the decision to file a complaint against DSK after "maturely reflecting". The messy drama has yet to reach its finale, but DSK would be foolish to underestimate his latest adversary.



www.politicalblonde.com



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea