In Strauss-Kahn coverage, feminist group says stop blaming alleged victim

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The Women’s Media Center (WMC) has a message for the media: “Stop victim blaming coverage of IMF Chief’s alleged sexual assault!”

The feminist watchdog group is taking issue with the news coverage of the former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault charges against a New York maid. Namely, they believe there has been an unacceptable amount of exposure and blame heaped upon the alleged victim.

WMC has a petition out asking that the media be respectful of the alleged victim. In the document, the group highlights news outlets that they feel have crossed the line, the first being The New York Post, which they say  “outed” the alleged victim as living in an apartment reserved for HIV/AIDS patients.

“This type of coverage does nothing to help hold an alleged rapist accountable and only contributes to victim-shaming and stigmatizing people living with HIV/AIDS – With no respect for the accuser’s medical confidentiality or the confidentiality of the residents in that building,” the petition reads. “Further, they repeatedly refer to her as maid, rather than a victim, and highlight her immigration status and race. The New York Post should be ashamed for framing their coverage of sexual assault about concerns for an alleged attacker, rather than the impact of a violent sexual assault on a woman at her place of work.”

WMC further questions The Daily Beast’s decision to run French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy’s article in which he questions the alleged victim’s story.

“I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a ‘cleaning brigade’ of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet,” the petition quotes Levy as writing.

The American Spectator also received a lashing for publishing a piece by television personality and political commentator Ben Stein, in which Stein defended Strauss-Kahn’s right to be innocent until proven guilty and recounted his own troubles with maids.

“I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me,” the petition quotes Stein. “How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail?”

The Center concluded their petition by writing that such coverage normalizes sexual misconduct.

“This type of coverage reinforces the power structures that legitimize sexism and rape, and works directly against the elimination of sexual violence in our culture. In a country where a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes, such pieces do real harm,” the petition reads.

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