DSK Case: A Tale of Cultural Miscues?

The powerful Frenchman may have added insult to injury in his treatment of a hotel maid, says a writer in Paris.

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a product of this culture, this mindset. And the list of women upon which he has preyed is legion, from M. Marie-Victorine, a Congolese-born French socialist who attempted suicide when DSK broke off their nine-month affair, to Anne Mansouret, the Socialist Party official whose consensual encounter with DSK she has described as "clearly brutal." Her daughter, author Tristane Banon, has charges pending against DSK in a French court over allegations of an attempted sexual assault dating back to 2002.

Back on America's shores, Vance and his attorneys apparently decided that if they couldn't win the case, why proceed to trial? The witness was unreliable, they reasoned, so her testimony would not hold up. But even in France, people want to know why DSK's sperm was on Diallo's housekeeping uniform when she left the suite.

Vance, in his establishment mindset, saw only the letter of the law and not the cultural dimension of the case.

Was Diallo coerced into doing whatever she did out of fear of losing her job if she didn't submit to a powerful man who could destroy her economically? Consensual sex by coercion may not be illegal, but it is immoral. Did Vance pass up an opportunity to break new ground legally by not looking at how a woman could have felt as threatened economically by DSK as she would have if he were holding a gun to her head? We will never know.

The real moral of this story is that money and expensive lawyering continue to prevail when the powerful prey on the weak. And an African woman is particularly vulnerable in this situation, if for no other reason than she is a long way from home. At least the French owners of the Sofitel Hotel, who have continued to pay her salary, told Nafissatou Diallo that she can return to work when she's ready. Small justice, indeed.

Leroy Woodson Jr. is an African-American journalist living in Paris whose observations stem from many years of exposure to French and Parisian culture.

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