Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid sexually assaulted by Dominque Strauss Kahn, is being attacked again, this time because she dared to sue her rapist. Her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, made a brilliant move when talking to the press. He used the word “vagina,” much to their horror. Here’s a quote from his former partner Andrew Goodstadt that appeared in the Observer:
He connects with juries. He connects with members of the media. I mean, you saw him standing out in front of the court house on D.S.K. I mean for a 35-minute uninterrupted CNN interview where you use the word vagina 20 times in four minutes.
Jezebel’s Anna North put this spin on the strategy:
As the Observer’s Brian Gallagher notes, the whole speech is designed to be “uncomfortable to hear.” In addition to his six v-bombs, Thompson also says “semen” three times and “female genital mutilation” twice. Clearly biological frankness is part of his approach. But there’s something special about the word “vagina.” For one thing, there’s our general squeamishness about the term and the organ it refers to, part of Eve Ensler’s rationale for launching the Vagina Monologues in the first place. Saying “penis” six times might seem crass or silly — but even fifteen years after Ensler’s play opened, six references to female genitals still make a speech sound shocking.
Beyond that, though, Thompson’s word choice is a clear rejection of euphemistic discussion of sexual assault. He doesn’t say Strauss-Kahn “took advantage” of Diallo or “forced himself” on her — he says he “grabbed her vagina.” The brutality of what he’s alleging is inescapable, and everyone listening is forced to think about the disturbing physical details of the accusation. His language also emphasizes Diallo’s vulnerability — her very anatomy is laid out before his listeners, clinical and unobscured.
Thompson is also suing The New York Post for their salacious articles claiming Diallo was a prostitute or worse. The NYP backed off after he filed, but now they’re calling his decision to sue DSK a “crafty move” because “the Bronx civil jury is the greatest tool of wealth redistribution since the Red Army.”
Think about that. Why shouldn’t there be a redistribution of the wealth when a woman is raped? She’ll suffer severe career and educational setbacks. She’ll suffer through years of therapy. She may lose out on any chance of a happy marriage or sexual relationship. Her finances will be impacted for the rest of her life.
Since the criminal courts have consistently failed rape victims, let’s take it to the civil courts.
Think of the good this redistribution of the wealth would do. The sheer number of cases would jam the courthouses, forcing them to hire new personnel, perhaps even build new courthouses. That would be a boon for the construction companies. After a judgment is obtained, there’d be more personnel needed to collect.
Women’s share of the national wealth would increase substantially. They’d have more clout in politics and business, changing our national culture forever. Women would finally feel free to come forward and report rapes, get rape kits done and fully processed, and ask for justice. We could force an expansion of the DNA databases for those women who don’t know their rapists. This would help identify serial rapists too, who could be hit even harder in the pocketbook.
In fact, we should extend the lawsuits to men who batter and rape their intimate partners too. Think how fast men would learn to control themselves if their money was on the line.
Of course, women needn’t wait for the National Let’s Sue Our Rapists Day. They should sue their rapist the day he commits the crime. Why let him have a chance to hide his assets?
The attitude of men toward rape would change drastically. We would no longer see rape celebrated in art, like The Rape of the Sabine Woman pictured above, or the depiction of the rapist as a virile stallion, as in the Centaur raping a Lapith woman.
We wouldn’t see anymore frat boy newsletters explaining how to get away with rape and no more frat boy gatherings outside of women’s dorms with signs that endorse rape. Rape would no longer be a locker room joke, with a lot of backslapping and laughter as the rapist brags about his “conquest.“ Instead, the discussion would go rather like this, “Don’t do it, bro. It ain’t worth it. You’ll be paying the bitch for the rest of your life.”
A lifelong financial plan for rape victims instead of a lifetime of misery. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?