Thursday, June 16, 2011

"The Catastrophe" to the Party: Some Socialists Are Calling for the Expulsion of DSK Victim's Mother from the PS

Nine years ago, Anne Mansouret dissuaded her daughter from filing a legal complaint for attempted rape against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a prominent member of the Socialist Party in France and the former husband of one of her best friends
writes the New York Times' Maïa de la Baume as The Economist claims that "the aftershocks in France have already been felt."
But now she is speaking out about what happened and what other Socialist leaders knew. And some Socialists — deeply embarrassed by the allegations against the wealthy man who was likely to be their presidential candidate next year — have called for her expulsion from the party.

In a series of interviews, Mrs. Mansouret — by turns defensive, emotional, argumentative and uncompromising — said she did it to protect her daughter, Tristane Banon, now 31, and the party itself.

Ms. Banon, a journalist and novelist, asserts that Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who is facing criminal charges in New York of attempted rape of a hotel housekeeper, tried to rape her during an interview in an empty apartment in 2002 — grabbing her arm, pulling off her bra, trying to unzip her jeans, fighting with her on the floor and ignoring her cries of “no.” She described him as “a chimpanzee in rut.”

Party leaders knew of her daughter’s experience with Mr. Strauss-Kahn, Mrs. Mansouret said, but chose to ignore it. And she herself felt stymied, in part, because Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s second wife, Brigitte Guillemette, was one of her best friends and the godmother of Ms. Banon.

“Many people knew the story, but didn’t want to talk about it,” Mrs. Mansouret said. …

Since the arrest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn in New York, Mrs. Mansouret, a Socialist member of the regional council of Haute-Normandie, has been caught in a highly politicized drama. She is widely seen as a betraying mother who silenced her daughter’s trauma for nearly a decade and who is now tarnishing the image of the party she originally tried to protect.

Michèle Sabban, vice president of the regional council of Île-de-France, asked for her expulsion from the Socialist Party.

“She has no spirit of responsibility,” Mrs. Sabban told the French radio station RMC. “She didn’t take the measure of the catastrophe” to the party, she said, after the indictment of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the party’s leading candidate for the presidency and head of the International Monetary Fund. …

“I knew the Socialists would deny it,” Mrs. Mansouret said. “Between the truth, what you know as being true, and what people present as being true, there is a often a difference in politics.” Ms. Banon herself said in 2008 that she was struck by a “general hypocrisy on this story,” which the mainstream press did not investigate.

As for The Economist, the London weekly says:
How the mood has changed since the arrest in New York of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexual assault and attempted rape. …

The sight of an American court taking seriously the word of an African immigrant chambermaid against that of a rich, powerful man has been sobering in France. The country may have ousted its monarchy, but it treats its elite as a caste with special privileges. Ministers seldom resign promptly, even after scandals unrelated to the bedroom. Earlier this year, President Nicolas Sarkozy dithered before ditching Michèle Alliot-Marie as foreign minister over her ties to the discredited Tunisian regime. …

As for sexual harassment, cases rarely surface. Politicians dismiss accusations as vengeance or fantasy; women, sometimes threatened, fear for their jobs or reputations; the press steers clear.

The DSK affair is changing all this. It “has been a catalyst,” says Valérie Toranian, editor of Elle, a magazine. “There will be a before and an after.” …

Overnight, the French seem to have found that their democratic temples of liberty, fraternity and equality are in fact hotbeds of sexism and predatory behaviour.