While there is evidence that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted French writer Tristane Banon when she interviewed him in 2003, French prosecutors have dropped an investigation against the former chief of the International Monetary Fund for attempted rape. The French prosecutor’s office said that a three-month police investigation had found “insufficient evidence” to charge Strauss-Kahn with rape. The prosecutor did note that there were “facts that could qualify as sexual aggression.”
It is the second time this year that judicial officials have chosen not to prosecute Strauss-Kahn on charges of rape or attempted rape. Strauss-Kahn had also charged been with the attempted rape of New York city hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo in May, but those charges were dropped in August after revelations surfaced that she had previously lied in other instances of sworn testimony.
Banon’s lawyer has already vowed to bring a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn and described the decision as a victory:
“[Mr Strauss-Kahn] will have to be satisfied with being an unconvicted sex attacker, protected by the statute of limitations, allowing him to escape criminal prosecution, but not a legitimate suspicion.”
Strauss-Kahn has contended that Banon’s claims are “imaginary”; his lawyer said that the decision meant that he is “completely cleared.” Previously, Strauss-Kahn has reportedly admitted to having made an “advance” on Banon and to trying to kiss her, but says that there was no violence and that he is suing for defamation. He has also threatened to sue any media that repeat the allegations.
Once thought to be the leading presidential candidate for the Socialist Party, Strauss-Kahn’s political career has been heavily damaged and he is is “out of the political film,” as Bruno Jeudy, the political editor of Le Journal du Dimanche, writes.
The Hypocrites’ Ball
Just today, Banon published a book, Le Bal des Hypocrites [The Hypocrites’ Ball], that is said to be a novelized version of the encounter between her and Strauss-Kahn when she went to interview him for a book she was writing.
In her book, an extract of which was published by Paris Match magazine, Banon writes of feeling sick when the man, assumed to be Strauss-Kahn, was being hailed as the next president before his arrest in New York.
“It was nine o’clock that Saturday morning and they were talking about the baboon on the television. He is a superhero, a Messiah, saviour … capable of everything.
“He would revive the country, lower taxes, understand the weakest and bring happiness and calm to each French household.
“They showed pictures of him; in action in the four corners of the world. Superman.”When I saw him, his stare made me freeze, the television screen could not protect me, his smile was only for me, it forced its way into my stomach and the image only disappeared when I threw up my lunch.
“Suddenly his message on my telephone came back to me: ‘So, I scared you?’ That was eight years ago.
“The years have passed, but nothing has completely effaced the memory.”
Banon, who is the goddaughter of Strauss-Kahn’s ex-wife, first revealed the assault on French TV in 2007. She writes:
“I eventually spoke about it but I was too smiling when I did. should have cried so that people understood the real ravages it had caused.”
“But alcohol had given my cheeks a rosy tint and, like Molière, I wanted to laugh about what had made me cry inside.”
Banon’s mother Anne Mansouret, a Socialist politician, had discouraged her from speaking to police at the time of the assault by Strauss-Kahn. Mansouret told her daughter that she risked becoming known as “the girl who had a problem with the politician.”
While Banon also writes how those who had said they supported her have refused to make a written declaration on her behalf, her case and that of Diallo have led to a renewed interest about feminism and groups working for women’s rights in France. Olivia Cattan, president of Paroles de Femmes, a feminist group, said that the prosecutor’s decision is “half a victory,” though it leaves a “bitter taste.” But the prosecutor did indeed acknowledge Strauss-Kahn’s crime and the case proves that Banon “is not a liar.” The case may also aid Cattan’s group in its efforts to extend the French statute of limitations for sexual assault from three years to ten.
While Strauss-Kahn will not face legal action on Banon’s charges of attempted rape, he has not been exonerated from the allegation of sexual violence against women. As Banon said at a rally organized by a feminist organization last Saturday:
“I hope that things change and there is no other Tristane Banon because it’s not fun now to be Tristane Banon.” ["Je souhaite que les choses changent et qu'il n'y ait pas d'autres Tristane Banon car ce n'est pas drôle aujourd'hui d'être Tristane Banon."]
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