Justice for Rape Victims
Prosecutor’s Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Strauss-Kahn Sends a Disturbing Message to Victims of Rape, Sexual Assault
Statement of Esta Soler, Founder and President, Futures Without Violence
“The prosecutor’s decision, made public yesterday, to drop charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn for sexually assaulting Nafissatou Diallo is a disturbing end to a case that has raised serious questions about how our legal system treats victims of violence.
By all accounts, there is considerable evidence that Ms. Diallo was forced into non-consensual sexual relations with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. The decision not to prosecute turned on her credibility as a witness, cast into doubt not by her accounts of the alleged assault itself but rather by her statements and actions about other matters. That creates a high bar for prosecutable cases and sends a dangerous message about the legal system’s willingness to seek justice for victims of rape and sexual assault who have made mistakes or been imperfect.
There is no question that this case would have posed challenges in court and that a conviction was not assured. But like all of us, rape victims are imperfect, and juries are capable of understanding that. The prosecution’s decision will deny a jury a chance to consider the evidence and Ms. Diallo the chance to face the man she says assaulted her.
Prosecutors erred by jumping to conclusions early in this case and by leaking to the media information that raised doubts about Ms. Diallo’s credibility. It is unfair to all parties to try cases in the media, as prosecutors did here.
Educating the courts to handle cases of rape and sexual assault appropriately has been a long process, and clearly our work is not yet done. For now, we must redouble our efforts to prevent sexual violence of all kinds by teaching the next generation that violence is always wrong, and we must ensure that our legal system vigorously pursues justice for all victims of violence.”
Everyone has the right to live free of violence. Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, works to prevent and end violence against women and children around the world. Learn more at FuturesWithoutViolence.org.