Just two days before Sunday’s presidential elections, news broke that French judicial authorities are contemplating bringing rape charges against former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in connection with the so-called Carlton Affair. Strauss-Kahn has hitherto “merely” been under investigation for aiding and abetting the organization of a prostitution ring in connection with the affair, which revolves around a series of “sex parties” with prostitutes that were organized for his benefit.
The most recent revelations have received some limited coverage in the American news media: notably, in the form of a short article in the New York Times. But the Times report is sparse on details, coy and linguistically-challenged to boot.
The accusation of rape stems from statements given to Belgian police last December by a Belgian prostitute who has been identified only as Marie-Anne S. – or “Marion,” the pseudonym under which she worked. Marie-Anne and another Belgian prostitute accompanied Strauss-Kahn’s three alleged accomplices in the Carlton Affair – two French businessmen and a French police commissioner – on a trip to Washington, D.C. in mid-December 2010. The three men and two women checked into the W Hotel. The call girls were presented as secretaries.
On Marie-Anne’s account, she was assaulted by Strauss-Kahn in her hotel room on the evening of December 16, 2010, in the presence of the three other men and the other call girl, who has been identified only as Aurélie D. The Times report, which merely alludes demurely to “a particular sex act,” might leave readers wondering just how a prostitute could credibly accuse a client of raping her during a paid sexual encounter. More precisely, Marie-Anne accuses Strauss-Kahn of having sodomized her against her will.
The French left-wing daily Libération has published extensive extracts from the statements of Marie-Anne to the Belgian police, as well as from statements of Aurélie D. to both French and Belgian police. The Times article quotes only one short sentence from Marie-Anne’s statements and it does so, moreover, inaccurately.
“Certainly, I didn’t scream,” Marie-Anne is supposed to have said per the Times, “but I did say clearly several times to stop in a high voice.” Needless to say – other than for New York Times editors – the bizarre “in a high voice” is a mistranslation. The French expression “à haute voix” means “loudly” or “aloud,” i.e. as opposed to in a whisper. “Loudly” as opposed to in a normal voice would typically by signified by the French adverb “fort.” As will be seen momentarily, these distinctions are essential to understanding the testimony of the two Belgian women.
More fully and accurately, this is what Marie-Anne said to the police:
I refused: telling him no, I don’t want to. I tried to get away, but it was difficult, because he was on top of me and he is very heavy. … It’s true, I didn’t scream, but I clearly said that I did not want to, [I said it] repeatedly and aloud.
Marie-Anne told police, furthermore, that Strauss-Kahn took her “by force”:
which is to say that he held my hands down. He pulled my hair, he hurt me. I weigh 50 kilos [110 pounds]. He is heavier.
The Times report repeats claims by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers that the other call girl’s account of the incident contradicts that of Marie-Anne S. According to the statements quoted by Libération, Aurélie D. denies indeed having heard Marie-Anne’s protests. It should be noted, however, that under both French and Belgian law, failing to come to the aid of someone who is the victim of a violent crime is itself a crime. It is perhaps because she is aware of this fact that Aurélie was careful to specify that if she had heard Marie-Anne protesting, “I would have done something.”
Aurélie claims, furthermore, that she herself told Strauss-Kahn to stop. “I remember it well,” she told police, “I could see from her face that she didn’t like it. I told DSK to stop.” On the matter of Marie-Anne’s protests, this is more fully what Aurélie had to say: