Dominique Strauss-Kahn Settles With Maid: How the Case Changed France

13 December Print

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Settles With Maid: How the Case Changed France

Nafissatou Diallo, who just won a settlement in her sexual-assault case against DSK, helped deny the veteran pol the presidency of France—and changed the country’s geopolitical and economic history, says Christopher Dickey. Plus: Judge helps Diallo find justice in the Bronx.

In 10 minutes or less, an African-immigrant chambermaid changed the history of the world. Not through design or desire, as she tells the story, but by first consenting out of fear, then refusing out of pride to be the sexual victim of one of the planet’s most powerful men.

And while the details of the settlement inked in a Bronx court Monday remain sealed (earlier reports in the French press that $6 million was involved have been roundly denied), the explosive impact of the complaint for sexual assault lodged on May 14 last year by Nafissatou Diallo against then International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn continues to reverberate.

The sordid details of their acknowledged sexual encounter were the stuff of tabloid frenzy from the moment the story broke. Much of what was written was wrong or misleading, but this basic narrative is clear and uncontested:

Strauss-Kahn, or DSK, as he’s known, was getting ready to run for president of France. Although married to the prominent French heiress and journalist Anne Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn was a libertine of the old school. (Think Dangerous Liaisons.) As he juggled the finances of Europe and readied himself for the campaign trail, he was in full rut at the end of the second week in May 2011, attending an orgy in Washington one day, spending the night with one of his mistresses, then stepping out of the shower just before checkout time at the Sofitel in Midtown Manhattan only to find Diallo in his room.

She was 30 years younger than the 63-year-old DSK and several inches taller, and we know now that she was wearing two pairs of pantyhose as well as her underwear beneath her uniform: not exactly the attire of someone on the game. But she was a woman, and an African woman like at least one other lover he’d had, and he wanted her, and perhaps he really believed she wanted him.

When Diallo spoke to police afterward, she charged that this man had forced her violently into a corridor and onto her knees and compelled her to perform fellatio. She did so, she told Newsweek in an exclusive interview, because she was afraid if she hurt this guest in a $3,000-a-night suite she would be fired, and jobs are not that easy for illiterate single mothers to come by in New York City.

The DNA and other physical evidence entirely supported Diallo’s account. But DSK insisted that everything that happened was consensual. His high-paid lawyers and detectives pulled apart Diallo’s life and connections on the fringes of society. After a few weeks, prosecutors dropped the criminal charges against DSK because they didn’t think they could convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Diallo was telling the truth. The civil case just settled, if it had gone to court, would have required a lower standard of proof.

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