With the media frenzy over the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn we have more to add to a long history of outrageous and dishonest double standards by the news media when it comes to reporting cases of sexual assault.
The whole world now knows that Strauss-Kahn was arrested for sexual assault because a hotel maid made an accusation. But even though there has been no proof of an assault, and no judicial process, the media sheilds the name of the maid or anything about her other than she is a 32 year old African immigrant who lives in the Bronx.
This is not to say that information about her or her name should now be in public view. It is to say that in a world of so called gender equality and justice, neither should Strauss-Kahn's identity have been revealed.
To plaster Strauss-Kahn all over the media with sensationalist headlines when he has been convicted of nothing, when there is nothing more than an accusation being made by a person who's identity and credibility is kept secret and there is no proof that any crime was committed at all much less committed by Strauss Kahn, it becomes nothing more than media groveling and pandering to a politically correct double standard that benefits them in their need to grub for not grab, headlines. The headlines have more to do with who he is than what he is accused of doing.
There may be a lot of good reasons for keeping the victim of a sex assault anonymous if the victim so chooses. Most of the time the reason has to do with the ignorant reactions of people in the past to victims of such crimes. But at the same time, while in most cases there is obviously a victim, there are also cases where whether someone has actually been a victim of anything has yet to be determined. An accusation alone by someone does not make them a victim. And there is a world of difference between an accusation and an allegation, a simple exercise in vocabulary that most in the media, cant seem to understand.
Anyone can make an accusation. No one needs proof to accuse. An allegation is different. An allegation is what is contained in a formal indictment handed down by a grand jury. In it an indictment alleges certain facts yet to be proven. It has an official sanction even though as we all know, an allegation is hardly a conviction and the old saying is a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
So there is a world of difference between an "accusation" and an "allegation" yet the media insists on calling the accusations against Strauss-Kahn "allegations".
And the fact that we've seen cases where people making accusations like this have been lying, is reason enough to shield the identities of both accuser and accused until something is proven.
One of the most notorious examples of an accuser lying is what happened to members of the Duke University Lacrosse team. Without any proof, without any court proceedings,without any convictions, the names of those college students accused by a stripper of sexually assaulting her were plastered all over the news media. Their names, their faces, their backgrounds, their families, were all part of a media feeding frenzy. And because they were all white and the accuser was black, race was added to the mix.
The accuser (and that's all she was at the time and all she ever was -- an accuser) was given the cloak and protection of anonymity. Those accused were put in public stocks and pilloried by the media without a shred of proof.
In the end we learned the accuser lied about everything, a prosecutor was disbarred for his handling of the case, and the news media was proved guilty of putting innocent people through hell based on nothing but what turned out to be baseless and dishonest accusations.
No one yet knows the facts about Strauss-Kahn but thanks to the media we know he has been accused of sexual assault. He was considered a cinch to be elected the next president of France and that may now be up in smoke, which of course it should be if he is guilty of anything. But we don't know that he is. And neither does anyone at any media outlet.
One can make the case that on one hand it makes no sense that a man of his position and stature, even one who is a recognized womanizer, would commit a sexual assault on a hotel maid in a prestigious hotel that routinely houses people of stature, knowing full well that there is hotel security and security cameras everywhere. It would make no sense anywhere since if he wanted to have a liaison of some kind it could have been arranged. On the other hand people in high places have done strange, inexplicable things before, whether its Kobe Bryant, Ben Rothisberger, or Charlie Sheen.
The point is there is more than reasonable doubt that any crime took place at all, at least for now. Yet Strauss-Kahn's name and reputation are being dragged through media mud while the accuser is being given anonymity.
There are some who believe that it wouldn't be beyond the pale for political supporters of Sarkozy to have arranged such a thing since Strauss-Kahn is leading Sarkozy in French polls by more than 30 points.
But the media's gross double standard to give anonymity to an accuser even when there is no proof , yet freely plaster the name and picture of the accused all over TV and the front pages has to end. That is a lot of power to give to people who might want to harm someone for nefarious reasons. And it needs to stop.
It wasnt that many years ago that we had the case of the Buckeys and the McMartin Pre-School case where teachers and workers were charged with the most horrible incidents of child sexual abuse in anyone's memory. It was the longest and most expensive criminal trial of all time and every single allegation against every single person was proved in the end to be completely untrue, testimony coerced from the children by prosecutors and so called "professionals" who interrogated the children. This doesnt mitigate the horrors of child sexual abuse. It does mean that as far as the media is concerned, sex sells and sex crimes sell even better especially when they can put an evil face on it regardless of guilt or innocence.
Based on the facts as we know them there is more than enough reason to peice together a different scenario than the rape that was alleged. The maid claims in her statement that she was forced to perform oral and anal sex. How does that happen with no weapon, no claim of physical force used, no threat of a weapon, and a 62 year old slightly built perpetrator and a 32 year old woman? If he didnt use physical force or a threat of a weapon how did he force her into these sexual acts? She doesnt say in the criminal complaint at least for now. She just says she was "forced". Another scenario which would make Strauss-Kahn a cad but not a criminal, could be that when he came out of the shower naked and saw her cleaning his room he found her attractive and offered her a substantial sum of money for sex and being in a $3000 a day hotel suite she would have every reason to believe he would make good. For a recent immigrant and single mother it might have been an offer that was hard to refuse. Its possible she performed the acts and afterwards he told her to get lost and reneged on the money and she felt used, taken advantage of, violated, and angry as one might expect, and this was her revenge. Which makes him a jerk but not a criminal. Maybe.
Maybe more facts will come out to dispel this but right now it makes more sense than a 62 year old slightly built man who is one of the most powerful financial and political figures in the world, one who meets face to face with presidents and prime ministers and who is the leading candidate to be president of France, in a prestiguous hotel before noon, running down the hall naked as has been alleged in the complaint, chasing and then forcing a 32 year old hotel employee to have anal and oral sex with no weapon or threat of weapon or any specific allegation as to what kind of force was used other than her saying she was forced. And apparantly no concern on the part of Strauss-Kahn on what the consequences would be if she screamed, got away or ran for help. Instead he called the hotel later that day and asked them to deliver his cell phone to the airport.
The point is there are enough questions as to sexual assualt and forcible rape based on the current known facts to keep from jumping to conclusions which means if victims identities are to be shielded to protect them from ignorant stigmas society might impose on them, then the same is certainly true for those accused until they are shown to be guilty IF they are guilty. Then there is ample time to heap on them all the contempt, scorn and punishment they deserve.
If the media or anyone else is serious about equality and justice for all then if the name of a victim is withheld, the name of the accused needs to be withheld also. Until the victim is proved to be truly a victim. And the accused is actually proved guilty of something.