Thursday, July 28, 2011

Misinterpretation in the DSK Case


Nafissatou Diallo, the woman accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape, has come public with her story. This quote attributed to her: «Don't worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I'm doing» turns out to have been a poor summary, a paraphrasing, of a recorded phone conversation she held with a friend.

The conversation was is Fulani, a language from Guinea. I wonder about how the conversation was originally interpreted. Who was hired to make the interpretation? How many professional English-Fulani interpreters are there in the US? How could the interpretation be so dangerously misconstrued to imply something she never said? I haven´t found any articles with details on the linguistic issues of the case, only this report from the Wall Street Journal, stating that Diallo insisted the prosecutors, who want to drop her case, should listen more carefully. It sounds like the first interpreter of the recording either didn´t speak Fulani that well or purposefully paraphrased Diallo´s words in a way that discredited her.

The above quote is not actually what she said at all. It is several pieces of a much longer conversation, rearranged in a way that implies she was after DSK´s money. During the actual conversation, she describes in detail what happened to her. She references DSK´s power, not his wealth. She says she knows what to do - as in, find a lawyer, because a crime had been committed against her. Somehow, in a different order, this was interpreted as «Because he has a lot of money, I know what to do [pursue his money].»

Read the story for more.

Ugly things we have heard about DSK´s accuser in the press:

She has HIV

She is an illegal immigrant

She is a drug dealer

She is a prostitute

She is a liar

She is out for money

The point about rape that I would like to make is that she could be any and all of these things and it still does not preclude her from having been raped by DSK.

The accusation of prostitution is especially troubling. It seems there are many who do not believe it is possible for a prostitute to be raped. Let´s be clear, even if a prostitute is paid for the sex, if she did not consent to it, it is rape. Diallo has denied that she has ever worked as a prostitute.

Another point, in the Wall Street Journal article, is uses the term «almost raped». Yet, her charge is that DSK forced her to have oral sex. Oral sex is sex, therefore oral sex without consent is rape.

Diallo has lied about being raped in the past , this is true. But DSK has also been accused of rape in the past, and for some reason this doesn´t hold the same weight.

It seems one must be perfect to be raped – and to receive justice. We should think hard about the implications of this. Diallo may not even be allowed to take her case to court because of mistakes she made in the past. We have all made mistakes, all lied about things big or small that might impact our credibility. Does that mean there are limits to our right to justice when we are wronged?

Related Posts:

Wall Street Journal: Strauss-Kahn Maids´s Remarks Misportrayed
Interpretation Files

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