Let’s Declare a National Sue Our Rapists Day

by Loretta Kemsley

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?

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12 Comments to “Let’s Declare a National Sue Our Rapists Day”

  1. Thanks for this discussion, Loretta. I really like this lawyer’s smartness in stripping away the euphemisms to start with. I thin some British columnist said it was just “tumbling a maid”, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the langauge used is crucial in taking this case as seriously as it deserves to be taken.

    Civil suits are available for rape, but some care needs to be taken. (I only know US general law on this). First, a big advantage is that the standard of proof is much lower. Another advantage is that the victim may actually get some recompense besides the incarceration of the rapist. Also, homeowner’s insurance or hotel insurance may lead to deeper pockets. Timing of such a suit, synching it with any criminal action, is important.

    A few things that we need to be concerned about are: it may be possible to insert more of the victim’s character or background into the trial, leading to character assassination and invasion of privacy; the rapist will be incensed and may be free, so security is needed; and the rapist’s finances need to be checked first as he may be destitute. It’s true that one could sure primarily for an injunction keeping him away, too, but since such injunctions are often ignored by the rapist, again, security is needed.

  2. Great idea, Loretta! Perhaps a class action lawsuit is in order.

    “I thin some British columnist said it was just “tumbling a maid”, what’s the big deal?” tiptree2, when I hear statements like this, I have very strong suspicions that the individual has had some history of perpetrating assault against women that goes beyond words. Minimizing it acts to justify his own past (or current) actions. If I were rich and powerful, I’d hire private investigators to look into it, find evidence, then make it public. To shut up asshats like this.

    I do think your suggestions about making sure you are secure is a good one. However, if all women were to do this at once, it might not be as much of a problem, because we could be looking out for one another, perhaps living in women-only groups as a safety measure.

  3. Living in fear is exactly what rape is about. That’s how rapists and their rape supportive culture want women to feel. So here we are talking about being careful instead of talking about how to fight back.

    As to coordinating civil lawsuits to criminal charges, do the criminal courts really help rape victims? According to RAINN,

    •Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted
    •15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail
    •Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
    •38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance

    How would suing make us more vulnerable? These are men we deal with every day of our lives. We are already vulnerable to them just because of their proximity to us.

    What suing en masse would do is force our society to pay attention and to do something to cope with the mass of lawsuits. It would also change the climate for rapists who have little fear of anything ever happening to them.

    Even if the lawsuit was not won, their name would forever be in public as an accused rapist. If it was successful, their victim could attach any funds they receive before the statute of limitations runs out (10 years in my state). So even if they are destitute now, they may not be in just a few years (as in frat boys who will graduate and get jobs).

    That judgement, even after it is beyond the statute of limitations, would become a permanent part of their public record. It would affect their ability to find a job and obtain credit. As long as it was within the statute of limitations, the victim could latch on to any of their funds at any time, including funds set aside for their college years. Let them face the hardship of dropping out instead of their victim being forced off-campus because the college allows them to stay.

  4. Good points there, Loretta. It’s true, the money judgments would be good for a very long time…I think in my state you can even renew one for a longer period.

  5. Does this civil suit mean the criminal case has now been dropped?

  6. Well the great British aristocracy and middle classes have a long nasty HIS-Story of raping womon who are in their power employ. That is why still here in UK rape is never really taken seriously and always the womons fault. The courts go out of their way to ensure that womon never get a fair hearing without some element of their sexuality be laundered in public. It seems only the menz have ‘reputations’ to guard womon on the other hand are expected to tolerate all kinds of sexual denigration if they dare to ‘speak out’ about the rape and in the process are subjected to further humiliation and loss of reputation, and it is no matter. The Crown Prosecution Service here in UK ( CPS ) will not proceed to prosecuting alleged rapists if there is any doubt that the case will not be won for the womon. She will be told ‘it is un-winnable “, making prosecution a waste of tax payers money…….in these cases womon do not even get ‘their day in court’!.
    I agree when womon sue their rapist they quite often win here as it is a civil case, so maybe that is the way to go, encourage womon to sue the Fuckers in a civil court. But the rub is ‘who pays for the case’….we have little support here from the law to take cases in civil courts unless one has the means to pay and that is a loada money for womon to cough up……

  7. Loretta, I LOVE this idea! While I totally support women in suing their rapists, there is no way money can make up for what rape or sexual assault of any kind, takes away from a human being.

    But then you say:

    “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.”

    This is what I really like about this idea; that it could change things in a substantive way for women as a class.

  8. He doesn’t say Strauss-Kahn “took advantage” of Diallo or “forced himself” on her — he says he “grabbed her vagina.”

    It would have been more effective if he had said he “grabbed her vulva.” A vagina is an internal organ and can’t be “grabbed.” The external female genitals are called the vulva.

  9. You assume that most people know what the vulva is really called. LOL. They don’t, do they? Ignorance of female anatomy is rampant, even to the point of people resisting when you correct them. They prefer to do it wrong. Of course, the male anatomy isn’t subjected to the same treatment.

  10. Femme Forever wrote:

    Does this civil suit mean the criminal case has now been dropped?

    No. In fact the DA is upset she is suing him, from what has been reported. Of course, the DA’s office spent the first couple of weeks investigating her instead of him, then turned over dirt to the defense (required by law) and leaked it to the press (not required by law, in fact, very unethical). So I don’t have high hopes for the chances of them actually bringing him to trial on criminal charges. They’re looking for reasons not to.

  11. How about ‘the’ rapists instead of ‘our’ ?
    A man who rapes me is certainly not ‘mine’, I don’t want him.

  12. Now to-day the Strauss Khan is ‘OFF” the hook with his rightwing womon by his side as the public prosecutor will claim their is no case to answer.
    He admits there was a brief sexual encounter to which the womon agreed….the womon has been discredited and therefore would not be believed in a trial…..she is untrustworthy…he is trustworthy..she lied…he tells the truth, bianaries in all their glory here !!!!!!!

    These assaults and their consequences never change, powerful man claims he is ‘entitled to have any womon’, and dis-empowered and powerful womon must oblige or face a torrent of abuse and character assassinations . Here it is right in OUR faces…and now hundreds of womon in similar situations will not even bother to seek justice…….

    Nothing here changes..the same old myths the same old patriarchal power demands on womon to provide sex and satisfaction against ones WILL!!!!!!!!

    That olde Peggy Seeger song……Re claim the Night……
    has a line….
    “Rape is just a servants final due”,
    Call it nature, but RAPES the name……

    Wresting power from Patriarchy is the only solution to this thousand year ongoing war against all womon and girls…..

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