The chambermaid who accused a powerful French politician of attempted rape in a New York hotel last May turns out to be a liar. As her credibility crumbles, so does the legal case against the man, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. His supporters are already dismissing the whole affair as a witch hunt and hinting that he could still run for president of France.
What is the lesson here? Did the district attorney act too hastily? Probably, yes. But the maid told a compelling story reinforced by forensic evidence and officials were under enormous time pressure, seizing Strauss-Kahn only minutes before he flew back to Paris.
The more important point is this: Women should be encouraged, not discouraged, by this whole sordid story. The judicial system responded to the complaint of a poor immigrant woman when she charged a wealthy, influential man with sexual assault. And the result has emboldened other women to end their silence and speak out -- against DSK (as Strauss-Kahn is known) and men like him who treat women as disposable playthings.