What to make of the situation in which one of the most powerful persons in the financial world, and a rising star to become president of France, is now in a New York City jail, awaiting trial on charges of attempted rape?
The guy could be completely innocent, he could be guilty as sin, or somewhere in-between. But as much as I want to be objective, it’s kinda difficult, since everyone and their dog has a story about the sexual actions and interests of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who (at the moment) is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It seems his best defense so far is that the “encounter” was mutual and consensual.
If you haven’t caught it yet, Strauss-Kahn was arrested while on a plane, still on the tarmac, about to take off for Paris. A chambermaid (some press have referred to her as Ophelia) working for the luxury hotel Sofitel in New York City alleges he attempted to rape her.
Since I’m not a journalist, I’m not going into details of all the allegations others have previously made against him. Google him and you can find all you want. This guy, who was just about to make his pitch as leader of France’s Socialist Party to become President of France, seems to have been well-known for his sexual actions to just about everyone who cares.
And we’re not talking about having a mistress. In France it almost seems a given, at least to those in positions of power. Do you remember the pictures of the wife and mistress of former French President Francois Mitterand following his casket and standing by his grave during his funeral in 1996? It’s one thing to have a mistress, but it’s a completely different story to hear all the allegations women have made about Strauss-Kahn in which sexual requests and actions were anything except consensual.
So without finding him guilty, there are two things that disturb me. The first being why is there a shortage of powerful men who have the ability to keep their flies zipped up. From former U.S. President Bill Clinton, to Italy’s Premier Silvio Berlusconi, to former New York state Governor Eliot Spitzer to…well, you get the point. The second being why do those around these powerful men stay silent?
I’m going to keep this short and to the point. If people are involved in all kinds of strange and mutual sexual encounters, that’s no one’s business. However, when it involves people at work, or in related ways and it’s about power, not mutual interest, then people have got to get a hold on themselves and men in particular have to stop treating women as their sexual treats in the candy store. If they don’t get what they want, they throw a tantrum, or worse, fire the employee.
And we have got to stop excusing people who are venturing into sexual encounters that are questionable or downright wrong. We’re getting close to seven billion people on this planet. I gotta assume enough of them can be in positions of great power without abusing that power in a sexual way. If they aren’t willing to play by those rules, they should move over for those who will. And again, to be clear, I’m not talking about mutual actions between consenting adults
I guess we’ll find out what happens with Mr. Strauss-Kahn, but regardless of how it goes, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll probably hear of other powerful men who do the exact same thing.* We’ve just got to stop enabling them and supporting them.
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Stephen Hammond, B.A., LL.B., CSP, is a lawyer-turned professional speaker. He’s written two books, Managing Human Rights at Work: 101 practical tips to prevent human rights disasters and Steps in the Rights Direction: 365 human rights celebrations and tragedies that inspired Canada and the world. Both can be purchased on his website www.StephenHammond.ca
copyright - Stephen Hammond - Enabling sexual abuse for the powerful