The French press calls it a soap opera and the US public issimilarly enthralled – former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the hotelhousekeeper accusing him of sexual assault have each been painted alternately asvillain or victim.
Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys are intent on portraying thehousekeeper as a shady character with ties to drug dealers, prostitution, andfederal crimes including tax evasion and lying to immigration authorities inorder to obtain asylum. With her credibility thus tainted, their hope is thather claim against Strauss-Kahn will crumble, and if not, perhaps deportationwill silence her. Regardless of allegations about character and immigrationstatus, she deserves a chance to tell a judge what happened to her in thathotel suite.
While there is no doubt that some people embellish theirasylum applications to increase their chances of success, many tens of thousandshave legitimate cases that meet the criteria allowing them to seek safe havenin the US. They are desperate victims of torture, violence, and persecution,arriving in the US scarred and seeking a new life. The housekeeper possibly hashad experiences few of us can even begin to imagine. Guinea, the country fromwhich she fled, has a record of profound human rights abuses, including violentrepression of dissenters, mass rape, and torture at the hands of governmentofficials. No matter what her asylum application says, it is likely that shehad an extraordinarily difficult life in Guinea and fled to the US indesperation.
If Strauss-Kahn is prosecuted, we will learn more about thehousekeeper’s immigration history, but more importantly, we will learn whatthis powerful man may have done to a vulnerable woman. We cannot loseperspective on the weight and severity of the criminal claims she has madeagainst Strauss-Kahn. These allegations of violent sexual assault are serious,much more so than concerns about the potential civil infractions of anoverstated asylum application. Whether she falsified her asylum application or is simply less than a perfect victim, she is entitled topursue her claim. Justice demands that we allow her to tell her troubling andpainful story to a court, while putting aside judgment about her immigrationhistory.