Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Have we handed an unnamed maid too much power to destroy a presumptively innocent man? The question scarcely survives its statement

We reported yesterday what the world press is saying about the sexual assault claim against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. About how it could impact not only the IMF he heads, and France where is a presidential hopeful, but the global economy itself.  It is widely believed that Mr. Strauss-Kahn's reputation has been marred beyond repair, regardless of the outcome of this affair.

To say this is morally grotesque does not capture the evil of what is happening to a presumptively innocent man.

Without knowing with any degree of certainty a single detail about the alleged incident, aside from the fact that it is a classic "he said/she said" rape allegation, the world has allowed an internationally prominent public servant to be destroyed by an unnamed hotel maid it knows absolutely nothing about. 

On this site, we report daily how presumptively innocent men are arrested and subjected to intimate testing based on rape claims that turn out to be false. In many cases, their reputations are destroyed before we know a single fact about their accusers. Often, we learn after-the fact that their accusers had either an obvious motive to falsely accuse them or emotional difficulties that prompted the rape lies -- facts that would have been helpful to know before we were invited to prejudge the accused men as vile rapists.

If there is a running theme in this blog, it is this: we have handed anonymous women and children far, far too much power to destroy the lives and reputations of presumptively innocent men before even a scrap of evidence has been introduced to prove their guilt. We do this by allowing women and children to cry rape without serious consequence if the cry turns out to be false.

The incessant drumbeat of women's groups for the past four decades to "always believe the woman" has made the accusation its own conviction. News organizations treat any rape claim as if it either must have happened, or at the very least, likely did happen. Is it any wonder that in the court of last resort -- the world's dinner tables, where shreds and patches of the day's news are devoured along with the salad and beer -- the trial is over even before it has begun?  It will not be enough for Mr. Strauss-Kahn to have the charges dropped; he will need to affirmatively prove them false before he can even begin to restore his good name.

One particular aspect of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's arrest warrants mention: he was subjected to a handcuffed, humiliating perp walk for the titillation of the world community.  The term "perp-walk" refers to the police practice of intentionally parading an arrested suspect through a public place, like a war trophy of a victorious army in primitive times, so that the media may observe and record the event. (For instance, in the Duke lacrosse case, when the 46 white players willingly agreed to go to a crime lab to have their DNA tested, the police tipped off reporters, and a photographer was waiting for the young men. When some of the boys hid their faces, the front page of the next day's newspaper implied their guilt by stating they were concealing their identities.)

The New York Times is reporting that there is "outrage" in France about the spectacle Mr. Strauss-Kahn was subjected to. "While the so-called perp walk is a New York police tradition, allowing the press to get photographs of a suspect, a 2000 law in France tries to reinforce the principle of the presumption of innocence by criminalizing the publication of photos of an identifiable person in handcuffs who has not yet been convicted."

Read this next part: "The former French justice minister whose name is on the law, Elisabeth Guigou, said she found the photos of Mr. Strauss-Kahn in cuffs indicative of  'a brutality, a violence, of an incredible cruelty, and I’m happy that we don’t have the same judiciary system.' Ms. Guigou, a Socialist like Mr. Strauss-Kahn and a member of Parliament, told France Info radio that the American system “is an accusatory system,” while in France, 'we have a system that takes perhaps a little more time but which is, despite everything, more protective of individual rights.'”

On this point, France has got it exactly right, and America has got it exactly wrong. For more on the French reaction to our barbaric system, read what French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has to say here

For the record, Mr. Strauss-Kahn's humiliation was no worse than that experienced by many American and British men and boys. Is there anything more humiliating than being arrested for a rape charge at work surrounded by your colleagues, or at school with your classmates looking on, or in plain view of your children and neighbors?  Presumptively innocent men accused of rape often lose their wives, their girlfriends, their friends, their businesses, their jobs, and their money defending the false claim. Some are beaten, chased, spat upon, and even killed. Some kill themselves.

This sums up our mission here: the power to cry rape is altogether too awesome. The presumptively innocent should not be treated as criminals based on the allegation of lone accuser before an investigation is concluded.  And when the power to cry rape is abused, the abuser needs to be punished severely to deter others from doing the same. As Prof. Alan Dershowitz once said: “Rape is such a serious crime that deliberately bringing a false accusation of rape should be an equally serious crime and women are not being punished for those crimes. I believe that being falsely accused of rape is as traumatic as being raped.”