This blog was featured on 09/01/2016
Keeping Silent about Rape
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French Journalists’ Silence on IMF's Strauss-Kahn Reminds Sarah Glazer of Her Own Complicity

It’s an odd feeling to spend a month writing an article about the something as dry as the European currency union only to have it sensationalized the day of publication by an international sex scandal.

“But what does it mean for Greece?” my editors queried, as the news was breaking of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest for attempted rape.

I have no idea. Just when I should be thinking about the perils of default for a poor struggling country, I find myself flashing back to my own struggle beneath a heavy man on a dark, deserted field in Chicago.

It’s now coming to light that Strauss-Kahn had a history of sexual misdeeds that was carefully obscured by French journalists for years. And it almost seems that French society as a whole was complicit.

The BBC reports that the 32-year-old African hotel maid had no idea who DSK was or how prominent he was when she reported the assault—and that she was scared when she learned who he was. But now that she does know, her lawyer insists she will follow through on the charges because she believes it’s the right thing to do.

I did just the opposite of the chambermaid, for opposite reasons, and now I wonder if it was the wrong thing to do.

In 1968, when I arrived as a freshman at the University of Chicago, a white enclave in the middle of a black slum, our orientation week included a lecture by a campus policeman on what to do if we were attacked on the street. “Scream for help! As loud as you can,” he advised.

As a New York City girl, I dismissed these warnings. I was more interested in radical politics and the problems of the black working class.

A year later, a young black man walking towards me on a dark street shoved me off the sidewalk forcing me to lie on the hard ground beneath him. Scream for help, I thought, but the only sound I could muster was a high-pitched squeak from a voice box constricted with terror.  I could feel how overpowered I was as I pummeled away hopelessly at the man’s chest.

But it must have had some effect. Strangely, I suddenly saw a flash of a scared young face, almost as terrified as my own, pull away from me; then he ran down the street.

When I got home that night, my roommate nodded approvingly when I said I would report the incident but wouldn’t try to identify the guy. Just like the French press, our radical circle was complicit in keeping these things quiet.

Even the policeman who asked me if I’d be willing to pick my attacker out of a line-up nodded resignedly when he heard my answer. Maybe he even knew the ideology: Middle-class white girls don’t send poor black men to prison; we remember the terrible history of innocent black men lynched down South on false accusations of raping white women. In my case one value--defying that history--trumped another, testifying about an attempted rape.

Now the power tables are reversed. A poor black woman could send a rich white man to prison.

If she goes through with it, she’ll apparently be braver than all the others—including the French journalist Tristane Banon, who never brought charges, reportedly because she was worried about her career. And, if Strauss-Kahn is guilty, the actions of this maid from a former French colony could put a stop to the attacks, protecting other women.

This story made me ponder the French hierarchy of values-and how vastly it varies from their culture to ours. As early as 2007, a blog by a French journalist warned that Strauss-Kahn, then France’s candidate to head the International Monetary Fund, had a problem: his attitude towards women. “Too heavy-handed, he often verges on harassment. A failing known to the media but about which no one speaks (we are in France). But the IMF is an international institution with Anglo-Saxon values. One gesture out of place … and there will be a media frenzy.”

The author of the blog, Libération journalist Jean Quatremer, says he was accused of “crossing a red line, of violating politicians’ private lives, of stealing into their bedroom—in brief, of behaving like one of those predatory Anglo-Saxon journalists.” Nothing about his blog was repeated in France’s written press, radio or television.

Even though reporters and politicians have swapped stories for years about Strauss-Kahn’s uncontrollable sexual appetite, Quatremer says, such tales were considered the domain of “private life,” so journalists were “paralyzed.”

When I arrived at Chicago, there was a different but equally pernicious hierarchy of values. Women’s Liberation was barely nascent; adherents were regularly mocked at our student radical meetings. Today, in an era when students march on campus to Take Back the Night from date rapists, would young women engage in a similar conspiracy of silence? Apparently they still do in France. But maybe this incident will break the code of silence.

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  • Scars R. Stories

    Wow, thank you all (I will not bother with specific names as I've read through all of your stories, and every single one has touched me deeply), indeed, for sharing your stories of survival.  Ladies, you are not victims, you are survivors, subjects of the disgusting, selfish, violent acts of rapists - but you have made it through.  This is not to say the pain is over - I don't yet know if the pain ever ends, nor the feeling of being revictimized every time someone brushes off my experience, blames me for what others did to me, accuses me of lying or embelishing, etc. (ad nauseam!) - but the way out is through, and writing/talking/sharing is one of these "ways out".  Thank-you for making me feel less alone in being a multiple rape survivor. 

     

    Discussions like these will lead the way to a world where rape is viewed as absolutely unacceptable by many more people (I do not say "all", as there will always be some sick minds out there who think that raping women is fun).  Re: comment above my last one about silence - Ani DiFranco says "silence is violence" in one of her songs.  Yes, silence reinforces the notion that raping a woman is not such a terrible thing.  Here, I hear that voice I spoke of in a previous post - the voice that is louder than that of one woman, as the sum of our stories is greater than each on its own.  It tells the tale of a society where rape, though almost no one would say such a thing, at least not in any kind of mixed public setting, is not seen as "a big deal", as if it were, there would not be such a huge response to this short article, it would not strike a chord with so many of us like it did, pushing our hands towards our keyboards, and our fingers towards the keys, feeling, as I did, finally! - finally a place where I can tell my story without being chastised.

     

    I invite all of you to share your stories of your struggles with, and survival of sexual assault, as guest posts on my blog (e-mail me at [email protected] with your submission...here is my site if you want to get an idea of what it's all about).  After all, one of the subtitles of the site is "survivor stories", and rape is a frequently discussed topic, as it has influenced my life so profoundly.  Let our collective voice be heard wherever possible, whenever possible, in the hope that our generation's daughters do not have to be so terribly familiar with being shoved face down onto some surface so that their screams and protests are silenced, as they become another name on the seeminly infinitely long list of women whose life experience includes episodes of sexual violence.

     

    Cheers!

  • Nicki Johnson

    Thank you for telling your story - you are an amazing woman and so is that maid. So are all of you who have shared your stories here. I hope you all will find healing and peace - peace with yourselves and the hard, hard choices you made.

  • Cara Lopez Lee

    Thanks for sharing your story, Wendy, and for reporting your attacker. You probably saved someone's life. There are so many brave women in this thread. I'm impressed.

  • Clark Lohr

    I'm here to listen and learn. I don't like rapists.

     

  • I was kidnapped at gun point and raped when I was in my 20's. He told me he was going to shoot me, then himself. I talked him out of it. When I called the police department to report it, they told me to call back when the detective of sex crimes was in. Since my attacker had escaped federal prison, I called the FBI and they immediately picked him up. I was motivated because I knew he would do it again and she might not survive; I knew it was about power, not sex. The rape Crisis Center ws a fledging organization at that point and they were helpful but I doubt if even they realized how deeply traumatized I was. Later I went into shock and almost died.

    I think it is important to not only speak out about rape but the aftermath. People do not realize the years it takes to heal. To have one's choice ripped away in a violent act leaves a sense of powerlessness, humiliation and fear.  The invasion into my privacy by the defense attorneys was also humiliating. The trial was grueling. He finally stood up and confessed and said it was all a game to him.

     Writing heals; sharing poems heals; sympathetic loved ones who listen heals; trauma therapy heals. I was terrified to read my work in  public, afraid I would attract the wrong attention.  While in Israel, a man tried to attact me and I was paralyzed but finally able to look him in the eye and tell him "God is watching you" and he fled. I then realized that I could scream and ask for help, I wasn't helpless. I had lived in fear every day of my life for 20 years. When I went into transformational therapy for other issues, we worked on healing the rape. My therapist reminded me to congratulate myself for surviving. This, too, we must remember.

     

    I am so proud of the maid for speaking up. I am proud of Laura Logan. I am proud of all of you who have posted. We haven't even begun to discuss rape as a weapon of war and waht is happening in the world. But I also agree with another comment I read here. Men have to recognize that it is a CRIME personally and politically, that it causes suffering and pain, that women are not safe.  They must recognize that it creates inequality and have a desire to end that inequality as strongly as we do.

  • Cassandra Langer

    PC then and now does not absolve us from reporting the truths of our lives from the uncles, cousins, brothers who molest us as little girls to the all the others including fathers, mothers, grandfathers etc. All of these are soul murdering crimes. It does not matter, color, religion, gender etc. All are violations of our bodies and souls. Times have changed and I hope anyone who is exposed to this sort of violation will report it and not be cowed into letting it go, blaming themselves or saying nothing.

    Of course, some are saying he was set up by the political opposition and the woman has been paid to do this but without proof you don't know what to believe. The guy is a scum bag in any case.

  • Breena Clarke

    I believe the RCMP, etc. have their own troubles with race and rape. They are only recently bothering to pursue the serial killings of so-called aboriginal women raped and murdered -- since now they have a white victim. An African American woman, I was surprised and gratified at the response of NYPD to legitimize the complaint of the victim against so powerful and so white a man as DSK. I suggest that as regards the female journalists who did not speak out their charges of rape against this man and others is one of recognizing that what this man did was rape. I think -- I mean NO disrespect -- that some women mistake the actions of the(white) man in the suit as different from the fearsome, hulking, dark man in the alley. I had a friend once who, while toilet training her son, pointed to his penis and said, "That's for pee-pee. That's all it's for -- nothing else." I'm sure she warped her son - not. Seriously -- maybe we need to take these men in hand and tell them. "Stop it or we will stop you! Because we're not taking it anymore!"  Must we become more aggressive to defend ourselves?  I say these humorous things as my late mother would say: I'm laughing to keep from crying at the horrible, global abuse of women.

  • Liza Rosenberg

    Here in Israel, our former president, Moshe Katsav, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Katsav) was recently convicted on two counts of rape and other sexual offenses as well as obstruction of justice. The acts were all committed while he served in various official capacities (Minister of Tourism, President, etc.). At least EIGHT women accused him of sexual assault. 

    My connected journalist friends told me that Katsav's sexual activities were well-known in journalism and political circles, yet no one ever wrote about it. It only came out when Katsav himself went to the attorney general to complain that a woman who worked in his office was trying to blackmail him. This woman would turn out to be the first one to press charges against him for sexual assault, and the floodgates opened after that. She was, of course, publicly vilified by the president, his associates and his legal team, as were several of the other women who bravely chose to come forward.

    Even after being caught in lies, being accused of assault by so many different women and being found guilty, he still claims to be innocent - and there are many who believe him. If that's not disturbing enough, one woman I know believes that because he knew his victims, it wasn't really rape. We have come a long way in terms of speaking out and taking action against rape and rapists, but clearly, there's still so much more work to be done.

  • Shah Wharton

    I was silent for my child abusers, I was silent for my date-rape guy (a friend who wanted more - spiked my drink - get more - then thought we were dating in the morning?). Most recently (2005), a guy attacked my in a hotel room - but I got away and to hotel reception. They called the police an I made a statement. They took pictures and asked questions. They decided it was nothing more than a domestic but if I wanted to take it further i could. About a week later PC whatshisface called to say that my attacker denied doing anything so it was now a 'he said she said case and Id' almost certainly lose .He said even if I didn't, he hadn't 'really done anything' so he'd get nothing more then a fine or a caution. I let it go - again! Apart from this, I've been mugged out side a London tube station - no one helped me then, and before that, when I was around 23, a car full of around 6-7 Asian guys stopped and dragged me into their car - moving with me hanging out of the car door till they eventually gave up trying to get me inside. They flung me out and carried on riding - weeks later they killed a girl after gang raping her - I never went to the police because I couldn't have identified them or their car. I thought they were idiots not murderers.  I've felt sick to my stomach and had recurring nightmares about that since.

    I could say men are scum - I could, but it wouldn't be fair. The men who did these things to me were scum. And I was wrong in not trying to prosecute them all. shah x

  • Jan Nerenberg

    Congratulations on your courage.  While in school I spoke to a dorm counselor and they had been advised to keep things quiet if rape was reported.  I was stunned and shocked.  My dad always said that to remain silent is to tacitly agree to the action.  Women everywhere need to speak out.  I also agree with the post that says men should speak out against rapists.  Amen!

  • Azalie Hightower

     Thank you! This incident may not "break" the code of silence but it certainly should put a mean crack in the code. There are still too many women who feel that they might have done something to encourage this criminal attack so they suffer in silence. Others, in my generation and from my area(Bible belt) believe that these experiences are best  carried to your grave. I'm thankful this is a dying generation's code.

  • An excellent essay and I can imagine it wasn't so easy to write. I want to respond to one comment below. Scars writes that "it seems police in Canada, themselves, are more interested in justice than American police." I am not Canadian but I respectfully want to point out that it was a Canadian policeman's comment that sparked SlutWalk Canada, now a movement around the globe. This jumped out at me because the Toronto story revealed that old prejudices exist in their police department against women and how they dress. I can't say that the US police are any different, any better. I think the problem is deeply rooted in our mysogynitic cultures.

     

    When will rape end? Not when women complain louder. Not when police are given sensitivity training. Not when we march in the streets like at SlutWalk (though I do support these efforts.)

     

    Rape will end when a mojority of men make the rest of their brothers feel so uncomfortable and shamed by their actions, that they are ostracized by society for it. Only men can stop rape. Only when enough men who would never use their penis as a power tool or an object of forcible sex SPEAK OUT AGAINST IT WITH THEIR WORDS AND ACTIONS will rape stop.

     

    Until then, we'll be having these amazing conversations about all the reasons why the media is silent or why rape happens and argue whether it's about sex or power or both, etc., and somewhere a woman or a child will be violated once more.

  • Scars R. Stories

    Becoming Supermommy:

     

    I'm so sorry you had an awful experience with the police.  I should actually amend that statement, as I have had some good and some bad experiences with police.  When I finally spoke about the man that raped me sometimes every day for weeks at a time, I was very lucky to speak with an incredibly kind female officer, who was disgusted by what he did to me as well as others.  However, when I was given a date-rape drug at a party, and tried to kill myself the next day, the police that came to the hospital behaved much more like what you describe - they did not even perform a rape kit and they laughed at me.  Because I had been partying, and because I had been admitted to the same hospital before for psychiatric reasons, "I was asking for it".  This is always an enraging comment to have thrown your way - I've gotten it from many others, including my own father, re: the first fellow.

     

    I suppose I may also in part be naive about this because I am Canadian, and I find Canadian and American police have much different attitudes (and I apologize in advance for making a sweeping statement because I know that generalizations are always intrinsically false, as there are exceptions, but also reasons why they do exist - because they do reflect some truth) - it seems police in Canada, themselves, are more interested in justice than American police, who are more interested in "playing cops and robbers" - just from watching the television program "COPS", an embarassing confession, as I watch it purely for sociological reasons, otherwise it turns my stomach!, it also seems that police in the USA are more sexist.

     

    Indeed, victims need a united voice, and one that believes them.  Because I have been raped by a total of four different men (two when the date rape occured, and then the 2 men I mentioned), I am often accused of accusing "every man I meet" of being a rapist, in some kind of misdirected attempt to get even with the first man that sexually assaulted me.  Being accused of lying about what happened to me has at times hurt more than being raped.  Society at large needs to be made aware of how common rape is, and thus that there is some kind of unspoken belief that it is "okay" for women to be raped.  According to statistics, one in three women experiences being raped.  That is only the number that report it!  Thus, it really is not that strange to have been raped by multiple men. 

     

    Us women so often end up in catfights about silly things, and caught up in dumb gossip.  For this reason, I have had to end many friendships with other women.  This just gives misogynists, including men who rape women, exactly what they want, as if we are fighting with one another, we are weakened and distracted.  We must get over petty differences, and unrealistic portraits of womanhood that we are fed by the media.  I believe a new wave of feminism is long overdue.  I have so often wished that I felt some sense of being part of a "sisterhood" with other women, but this has never happened.  I have found that sense of community in queer circles, but not feminist circles.  However, I don't give up easily, so I'm still waiting.  Yes, we must unite to form a voice that is louder than that of a single woman in order to acheive the creation of awareness about rape, and ultimately freedom from violation and victimhood.

  • Coco200066

    I commend your honesty and frankness. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lea Grover

    Scarsarestories:

     

    The police will not question why you waited, they will just be overjoyed that you decided to report what happened after all.

     

    I'm afraid I have to disagree with that.  When I finally reported my ex for raping me, which I only did after several years of stalking and death threats, the police treated me horribly.  They treated me as though I had "asked for it," like I was just making trouble for them, and like I should just get over it and go home.

     

    My experience of talking with the police was almost worse than the rape itself.

     

    I'm not saying that victims should not go to the police- they SHOULD- but they need support.  And more than that, the culture of "shut up and go away" really needs to be addressed.  Victims need a united voice that wipes away the fears of retaliation and social stigmatization so that we can demand justice.

  • I bought a book awhile ago (but confess have yet to read), which might be of interest to many of you.

    It is titled Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern. The NYT review is here.

    One of the world’s foremost experts on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder investigates her own unsolved adolescent sexual assault at the hands of a serial rapist, and, in so doing, examines the horrors of trauma and denial.

    “I have been quiet, and I have listened all my life. But now, I will finally speak.”

  • Scars R. Stories

    Hi there!  What a relief to receive this in my e-mail inbox today, after my own struggles as a rape survivor, and one who has faced the negativity that comes with going to police about one's assault...

     

    I have had two experiences with rape: I was raped on a regular basis by a partner who I stayed with because I didn't believe it was possible for anyone else to ever "love me" between ages 18 and 20, and then, at 25, I had the terribly disillusioning experience of being anally raped by my (now ex-) fiancé while I slept.  He knew this was one of my worst fears, and he was "manic" at the time and thought it was funny. 

     

    In the first case, I was in too much denial to go to police.  However, when I moved to Vancouver and, when I said goodbye to some friends I had not seen for a long time in my hometown of Winnipeg, I found out that he had raped other women after breaking up with me, including one of my childhood best friends.  In Vancouver, I finally went forward to police about what happened to me - not expecting justice as over five years had passed, but in the hope that someday another woman will report him, and then what happened to me will be on record, his true character revealed. 

     

    When my ex-fiancé raped me, it broke my heart, and I struggled with going to the police because of the mental illness factor, but I still did so.  I realized while ruminating about the situation, that "being manic" is no excuse for rape.  I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder myself, and when I feel that I am out of control, and present a harm to myself or others (personally, it has always been to myself - I have hurt myself many times but have never had the urge to harm others, making it very difficult for me to understand) I take myself to the hospital immediately, even though I hate the hospital.  My ex was 10 years older than me, and had been diagnosed in his early twenties like I had, so he should have known what to do as soon as he felt like harming me - there is absolutely no excuse for rape.  This time, as I went forward immediately, the Crown (the slightly antiquated term used in Canada to refer to the police when they press charges) pressed additional charges against him for non-sexual physical abuse that had happened, and there will be a trial this fall.

     

    I have faced incredible adversity in my decision - the most hurtful being other women, including former mutual friends of ours, who will no longer speak to me because they do not think I should have reported him.  Another ex-girlfriend of his (who I never met) even put up a blog devoted exclusively to defaming me and accusing me of lying about what he did in some kind of vengeful act.  However, I do not regret my decision for an instant, as it may prevent another woman from being raped, one of the worst of violations a woman can experience (if not the worst), and a permanently life-changing event.

     

    I encourage any woman that is sexually assaulted to go forward to authorities.  It is the right thing to do for womankind, and you are not alone - several articles on my personal website about sexual and psychological abuse (this one, for example) stand to let women know this.  Also, there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault, so it is never too late to change your mind and decide to report a rape.  The police will not question why you waited, they will just be overjoyed that you decided to report what happened after all.

     

    In solidarity,

    Jen (a.k.a. scarsarestories)

    http://www.practiceofmadness.com

  • Anne Manyak

    Yes, we must talk about rape and we must talk to our children.  From the time before I even knew what rape was, I knew my mother had been assaulted when she was pregnant with my oldest brother.  Her would-be rapist had already broken her jaw when, by the grace of the goddess, a cop drove by.  She managed to scream and the rapist was caught and arrested.  He served 10 years in jail.  She spent two months of her pregnancy with her jaw wired shut. 

     

    My mother made no bones about discussing her experience with my two brothers and myself.  As a result, we grew up knowing that rape is an atrocious crime and that the woman is never to blame.  Even though my daughter never had the opportunity to know my mother, she knows her story.  She's now pursuing a career to stop commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC), who are victims of domestic human trafficking.

     

    Our experiences are our truth and our WORDS are our power.  I strongly believe the "old-school" feminist adage, "silence is permission."  We have to talk and I'm so grateful for forums like She Writes.  Blessings to all who have suffered at the hands of an oppressor.  As long as we breathe, it's never too late to talk.

     

  • Leslie S Moon

    Having the support of other women is huge. When I was raped, women would have called me a hussy and so I remained quiet. I have  male friends who have since remarked casually that "the rape of a woman is no big deal - it is just a form of sex."

    Women need the balls to take a stand on rape!

    thanks for doing just that

  • Sue Y Wang

    Thank you for your courage to write this.  You bring race, gender, and power into the conversation.  I applaud the maid's decision to bring charges against DSK.  Perhaps all women would cheer when balance and justice is restored by the positive outcome of this case.

  • Donna Porter

    Diann asked how Arnold S. is connected to DSK. I read the original post and find this a useful start on the subject: Essay: When powerful men cross the line (msnbc). More information can be found in news stories published in 2003/2004. I can't speak for the commenter nor claim that Mr. Schwarzenegger is guilty of anything illegal, but I do see why he would be considered in the same breath as this topic. I do hope the truth is ascertained for those concerned.

  • Dena Sisk Foman

    Thank you for sharing this story.  As we have all watched men of power fall one by one over the last many years, I have been troubled by the women that allow themselves to fall prey to the narcissitc appetite of powerful men.  I am concerned with what drives a woman to allow herself to be treated and demeaned as nothing more than something for which gives a man physcial pleasure.  The man then gets the sense that he is entitled to have this from all women as he is all powerful.  John Edwards even went so far to say that "noone could touch him".  Does this sense of power lead to a man's thought that we are less and that he can have what he wants with us, especially if we are in a class beneath him?  I hope that women will start taking a stand, not only on rape, but against this type of explotation by powerful men and hold them to the same standard that they would anyone else. 

  • Tami Lynn Kent

    Beverly,

    Thank you for linking the Good Men project. Such intricacies so beautifully expressed. I especially loved this father's wishes for his daughter.

  • Cara Lopez Lee

    BecomingSuperMommy, I love your poem... spot-on.

  • Diann Blakely

    How, other than timing and jokes on Bill Maher's--the right-minded kind--is the story of DSK connected with that of The Arnold and his housekeeper, who gave birth to his son a week before Maria Shriver was delivered of one of their "legitimate" marriage's progeny?