Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CM James Joins Advocates In Support of Fair Trail for Diallo Case

August 22, 2011

Contact: Aja Worthy-Davis at (212) 788-7081

Elected Officials and Women’s Advocacy Organizations Hold Press Conference In Support Of Fair Trial for Diallo Case

Request Continuation of Manhattan Criminal Case; Criticize Public Scrutiny of Diallo

New York, NY— On May 14, 2011, former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with the sexual assault of 32-year-old Nafissatou Diallo, a Guinean housekeeper at the Sofitel New York Hotel in New York City.

By May 19, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on seven criminal counts, two of which are first-degree criminal sexual acts. His bail was set at $1M, with additional 24-hour home detention and an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. After Mr. Strauss-Kahn turned over his passport and posted an additional $5M bail bond, he was placed under house arrest in Manhattan. On July 1, a special hearing was called in which Manhattan District Attorney prosecutors cited credibility issues in regards to Ms. Diallo’s background, and released Mr. Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance. He was arraigned on June 6, and pled not guilty to the charges against him.

As these events unfolded, media outlets have used alleged sources from the Manhattan DA’s office to imply that the criminal case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn was unstable. These same alleged sources have been used to paint Ms. Diallo as a liar, a prostitute, and a con artist; as well as accuse her of lying in her application for asylum in the United States by describing a false gang rape in Guinea.

Following Ms. Diallo’s accusations against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a French writer also filed rape charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn. In fact, the writer’s mother, who previously had a consensual relationship with Mr. Strauss-Kahn, described him as “a predator who isn't looking to please, but to take.” A French newspaper later published claims that Mr. Strauss-Kahn harassed female flight attendants of Air France to such a degree that the airline instituted a policy of placing male attendants on his flights.

Public scrutiny of women who accuse men of rape is itself a manifestation of misogyny. In this particular case, the fact that the accused is wealthy, politically connected, and white; while the accuser is poor, non-white, and immigrant suggests that there are unfortunate social stigmas at play that promote a victim-blaming mentality. The public “leaking” of confidential information regarding the criminal case— if these alleged sources are legitimate— directly interferes with the ongoing criminal case, and is unfair to all involved.

“This case is being tried in the media, when it should be decided in a court of law,” said Council Member Letitia James. “It is imperative that public opinion and spin not take attention away from the heinous nature of the crime Ms. Diallo has alleged was committed against her. The Manhattan DA should allow the facts to speak for themselves through continuing on with the criminal case.”

“Nafissatou Diallo deserves her day in court,” said Sonia Ossorio, Executive Director of the National Organization for Women (NOW-NYC). “Despite all the lies, innuendo and slander directed towards her, her allegation is credible. We urge the District Attorney to proceed with this case. Let a jury— not a media circus— decide Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s fate.”

“The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault applauds Nafissatou Diallo and all the courageous victims of sexual assault who come forward to report the crime,” said Cathleen Cogswell, Interim Executive Director of NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault. “Victim blaming is a common defense tactic, and the risk is significantly higher in a high-profile case like this one. Here’s what we know about sexual violence: We know false accusations of sexual assault are extremely rare. We know immigrant women are more vulnerable and at greater risk for victimization and exploitation by individuals in a position of power or authority, due to factors such as immigration status, isolation, cultural and language barriers, as well as fear of, and uncertainty of seeking help from the police. We know there is no right way to act after a sexual assault. And finally, we know sexual assaults are crimes of violence and power, not passion. We stand in solidarity with Ms. Diallo and all victims of sexual violence.”

“None of us benefit when injustice is upheld, and when court systems or public opinion re-victimize and criminalize women by putting the onus and blame on them for only wanting justice for the harm inflicted upon them,” said Quentin Walcott, Director of CONNECT Training Institute and Community Empowerment Program. “The merits of this case have become solely about Ms. Diallo’s character and past and not the accused-- Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s. Let’s be clear that this case is about race, class, gender, and immigration status and that DSK benefits by having privilege where each are concerned."

“Women in NYC deserve to know that their charges will be taken seriously and that they will retain their privacy while seeking justice for a violent crime,” said Rebecca Andruszka, Chapter Director of Younger Women's Task Force (NYC Metro Chapter). “We remind the city that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is accused of a crime, not Ms. Diallo.”

“Since news of the sexual assault allegations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn first surfaced, Nafissatou Diallo has been on trial in the media and public eye,” said Emily Douglas and Jean Stevens, Co-Chairs of Women, Action and the Media (NYC Chapter). “Local and national media sources have repeatedly cast doubt on Diallo's credibility--based on information unrelated to the allegations. The forensic evidence supports Diallo's statements and Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a history of sexually inappropriate behavior. Diallo deserves to make her case in court.”

“In a society where sexual violence is a true public health issue, we cannot afford to sit idly by as another survivor’s voice is silenced by public scrutiny and shame.”— the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program (SAVI)

“SisterSong NYC and the Coalition to Support Sexual Violence Victims and Survivors stand with Nafissatou Diallo because a reproductive-justice framework supports a woman’s bodily integrity,” said Andrea Plaid, Founder of the Coalition to Support Sexual Violence Victims and Survivors. “This means, as we say at the Coalition, everyone's body is their own, and no one has the right to take that right away. This means-- among the many ways— physically, sexually, journalistically, and legally.”

On Saturday, August 20, 2011, Ms. Diallo’s attorneys received a letter from the Manhattan DA’s office requesting a meeting. Ms. Diallo’s representatives remain concerned that the DA plans to drop the criminal case, or some of the charges. The next scheduled court appearance is Tuesday, August 23, 2011.

WHEN: Monday, August 22, 2011
5:00PM- 7:00PM

WHERE: Manhattan Courthouse steps
100 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013

-National Organization for Women (NOW)
-New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault
-Connect NYC
-Younger Women's Task Force
-Women, Action and the Media (NYC Chapter)
-Mount Sinai’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program (SAVI)/ Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims
-Sister Song NY
-Coalition To Support Sexual Violence Victims and Survivors
-Trust Black Women
-Permanent Wave

-Julianne Escobedo Shepherd [Culture Editor for the website AlterNet]
-Collier Meyerson [Writer for The Nation]
-Zeinab Eyega [Executive Director and Founder of the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families]
-Amanda Marcotte [Author and Journalist]
-representative from New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault

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