IMF chief arrested for sexual assault

Dominique Strauss-KahnDominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested over the weekend for sexually assaulting a maid at the New York hotel where he was staying. He was apprehended Saturday when police boarded a plane set to depart for France.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested Sunday:

“on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and an unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a 32-year-old chambermaid in the luxury suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel yesterday” about 1 p.m., Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said.

The report of the attack coming from the police is incredibly disturbing and triggering. According to the police, the maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite, when he emerged naked from the bathroom, grabbed the maid, locked her in the room, pulled her into the bedroom and sexually assaulted her. She broke free but he then dragged her down the hallway to the bathroom, sexually assaulting her a second time. The evidence, as reported by the police, also sounds overwhelming for a sexual assault: Strauss-Kahn left his phone behind when he fled the scene, the police found DNA evidence, and more evidence when he was examined.

I find the arrest surprising given the power dynamics at play. Strauss-Kahn led on the most powerful economic institutions in the world: the IMF oversees the global financial system and has played an active and public role in responding to the global economic crisis. John Lipsky has taken over running the IMF for the time being. Strauss-Kahn was also the expected frontrunner in the upcoming presidential election in France. Basically, he was one of the most powerful men in the world.

Strauss-Kahn was in the news in 2008 for an affair with a subordinate at the IMF. In 2007 a French writer brought up allegations she was sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn, though she tried to keep his identity hidden and did not press charges, reportedly because of her mother’s involvement in politics and an attempt to protect herself from the press. Since these new charges the writer, Tristane Banon, has said she will make a formal complaint.

As is seemingly standard when powerful men are charged with sexual assault, conspiracy theories are already popping up. Because of course a powerful man would never take advantage of his position, and women just love this sort of attention. Sadly, I think we all know how these stories play out in the press and popular conversation. Prove me wrong, everyone.

Strauss-Kahn is set to be arraigned today.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/weenta/ Weenta

    I don’t think this is about whether or not people believe that a powerful man would take advantage of his position. I think that many already believe that Strauss-Kahn is prone to leverage his power in his interaction with women as evidenced by his less than private history of affairs and sexual aggression. His behavior errs toward the side of inappropriateness, sure, but that’s not what’s in question here. What’s in question here is that inappropriateness brought to the level of sexual assault and attempted rape. It is about a man would be so stupid, so careless, so terribly indiscreet on the precipice of his possible run for president. The only testimony that sways my opinion toward Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s guilt is that of Tristane Banon who said of her experience in 2002, “He wanted to grab my hand while answering my questions, and then my arm. We ended up fighting, since I said clearly, ‘No, no.’ We fought on the floor, I kicked him, he undid my bra, he tried to remove my jeans,” but who never moved to press charges because she “didn’t wish to be the girl who had a problem with a politician for the rest of her life.” Maybe there are other women like Banon who were too scared to come forth, who’ve led Strauss-Kahn to believe that his alleged assault of this chambermaid would go unnoticed and unreported. Or maybe not, and it all really is a conspiracy. Either story is plausible and I think that there’s no way to exclude talk of conspiracy in the case of a man who has strategically managed to concentrate so much power in his hands, and yet so easily fumbles to predict the consequences of such reckless behavior. I will say however, that while I cannot speak to the possible sexism that might be floating in between the lines of other publications’ coverage, the NY Times has written fairly balanced articles in response to this scandal.

    • http://feministing.com/members/latinrita/ Rita

      You must not get out of the States that often! The French are shocked we are jailing this rapist because in France most, and I mean most, of the people would just chuckle. They would joke about his libido, and ask why the maid did not take advantage of the high prestige fuck she was about to receive. I’ve learned from traveling overseas selling high tech equipment to powerful men that unless you want a sexual advance ( we would call it assault ) then never put yourself in a one on one situation.

  • http://feministing.com/members/cmf406/ Charlotte

    As my BF said this morning while we were reading the paper, “The IMF fucks the world, so what’s not to believe?”

  • http://feministing.com/members/kittik/ KittiK

    I have read in one french newspaper article that apparently the attorneys were quite surprised to see walk in a very unattractive young woman. I mean what kind of news is that? It obviously did not happen cause the girl did not come out of a magazine?? Truly stupid…

  • tyra

    I am not inpressed with the fact that the top comment posts on the CBC article are concerned with the amount his hotel bill came to. They’re outraged. OUTRAGED, that his bill came to 3,000$. Not one denuciation of him for sexual assulting women…..

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/05/16/strauss-kahn-imf.html

  • http://feministing.com/members/guerin/ John C.

    From the New York Times this morning:

    “The news from France is that many are appalled that Mr. Strauss-Kahn was paraded on the classic perp walk, so he could be photographed in handcuffs. The custom is indisputably unfair to people charged with crimes. The only thing comparable in France might take place annually in Cannes.

    Year after year, the director Roman Polanski strolled the red carpet, smiling for the cameras, apparently unworried — and rightly so — that the French authorities would notice that he was a fugitive from justice in Los Angeles, where he had drugged, raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl. The parallel was striking, a prosecutor said Monday. Mr. Polanski, who took his version of the perp walk as a guilty man, lowered the odds that Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who took his while presumed innocent, will get bail in New York any time soon.”