The story of Dominique Strauss-Khan continues, first with his release earlier this week, and then a second accusation of rape. I’ve seen a number of blogs about the media interest in the credibility of the women involved, and in particular the unnamed maid.
There is a degree to which personal credibility and personal traits are important. If an individual is accused of stealing, then perhaps knowing whether they have a tendency to lie might be useful. So might knowing whether they tend to guard personal possessions jealously, or have a fluid understanding of property. But what bearing does their nationality, or their job, or any of their physical characteristics have on their case?
In the case of rape, it’s obviously more complex because you have two (or more) individuals and therefore two sets of personal credibility. And yet it’s almost always the women who have their credibility undermined. The fact that this woman is a maid and an immigrant should have no bearing on her credibility with regard to rape. So the well-educated Mr Strauss-Khan could probably beat her on Mastermind. That’s no reason to think that his (likely) superior intellect makes him a better or more moral person.
Similarly, her immigration status is irrelevant here. It’s an entirely separate issue, to be dealt with in a separate manner. Trial by media serves no one except the media and damages both the case under discussion and the wider credibility of individuals involved in rape cases.