The decision of the NYC District Attorney not to prosecute Dominique Strauss-Kahn must not distract us from the critical work of preventing sexual violence in the first place and of ensuring that all victims of rape and other acts of sexual violence receive the support they deserve, including access to skilled advocates who help ensure that victims are treated fairly by police, attorneys, and courts.
We respect that prosecutors make judgment calls each and every day whether to pursue a case. But let’s be clear: FBI statistics and several independent studies have consistently shown that fabricated sexual abuse reports constitute only 1 to 4 percent of all reported cases. This figure is the same estimate of false allegations for other crimes.
So when Lisa Wayne, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, claims that “More [of her] clients [are] wrongfully accused of sexual assault than any other crime,” the question is: who is her client base?
The DA’s decision does not prove that Strauss-Kahn was innocent or that Diallo was lying. Let’s not forget that other women in France have already come forward with claims of sexual assault by Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Let’s not forget that most rapes/sexual assaults go unreported.
And let’s not forget that the reality for most housekeeping staff doesn’t match the Hollywood version as portrayed by Jennifer Lopez’s character in “Maid in Mattahan.” Mostly women, low-paid and immigrants, housekeeping staff face real obstacles in seeking justice for crimes including sexual harassment and rape.
In the end, the best answer is prevention. We hope that this case encourages an open dialogue about the role that each and every person can play to help make our communities safer. This dialogue can begin with talking to our children, friends, and co-workers about the risk of sexual violence and expand to conversations about how inequality and privilege perpetuate violence. It continues with employers conducting workplace safety assessments and implementing policies and procedures to reduce safety risks.
While this particular case has been dismissed, the need for community education and action is as important as ever.