They listened to the woman. That is the most remarkable part of the sordid sex scandal ensnaring Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, who stands accused of attacking a maid in a New York hotel room.
Powerful men have always manhandled vulnerable woman and gotten away with it. Victims often chose silence over justice because they feared that the criminal system would reject their accusations or, worse yet, blame them for the assault.
The “blame the victim” syndrome is so pervasive that even an honorable institution like the Peace Corps fell into that pattern. A former volunteer, Karestan Koenen, recently told a congressional hearing that after she was raped in the African country of Niger, the official investigating the case told her, “I am so sick of you girls going out with men, drinking and dancing, and then when something happens, you call it rape.”
“The treatment by the Peace Corps was worse than the rape,” said Koenen. If you replace “Peace Corps” with “military” or “university” or “police” or almost any other institution in our society, Koenen’s statement would apply to countless women who have been victimized twice: by a man who felt free to assault them and a system that felt free to ignore them.