A group of international feminists is gathering support for the African immigrant woman hotel worker who was allegedly attacked sexually by (now former!) IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and who is now having her character assassinated in the media. We have posted a statement "Feminists Demand Freedom from Sexual Assault and Harassment" on the web (along with the initial signers) that people can sign by going to: www.change.org/petitions/feminists-demand-let-justice-be-done-3
You can also send donations for her to the address in the statement. She is in seclusion and cannot work, of course, and has a 15-year-old daughter to care for. She is from a village in Guinea and has been in the U.S. only a few years. She may be getting some support from her union, but her life has obviously been seriously altered.
Saluting her for her great courage!
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Feminists Demand Freedom from Sexual Assault and Harassment
Rape is always about power and domination; it is sexualized violence.
Rape and sexual harassment of women are pervasive at all strata of society and in all corners of the globe. Women will never be fully free and able to enjoy equality with men until this ends. As feminists, we see the arrest of former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges as an opportunity to increase public awareness and as a wake-up call to renew action against sexual violence, not only in the US where his arrest occurred and in France, where media and many public figures are portraying him as the victim, but around the world.
We join French feminists in saying that just as Strauss-Kahn is innocent until proven guilty, his accuser must also be respected and believed to be credible unless proven false. We commend her employer, Sofitel, and the action of the NYC Police for taking her complaint seriously. We call for feminists around the world to join with her union (New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council Local 6) in collecting funds for legal and daily expenses, as her work is now curbed and life circumstances vastly altered. Contributions can be sent to Judson Memorial Church (attention Women's Fund) 55 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012-1018.
We also share French feminist indignation at the deliberate and opportunistic confusion of seduction and sexual violence, from Strauss-Kahn's declaration that he "loves women," to the journalists and politicians who rally behind this "Great Seducer." It is outrageous that the allegation of attempted rape during the course of a housekeeper's work day raises issues about any woman's life story and sexual history. And portraying powerful Strauss-Kahn as "too civilized" to commit a violent crime plays upon colonial and racist stereotypes vis-à-vis an African immigrant woman.
We adamantly oppose all harassment, sexual violence and rape, and we know that when there is a large discrepancy between the power, the wealth and racial hierarchy of the parties involved, justice is even harder to come by. All rapists and harassers believe they are entitled, and often when they are part of the power elite they assume that influence will outweigh the legal protection and freedom from coercion all women should enjoy. Feminists around the world demand that justice be done.
Women of all countries, unite!
This statement was initiated by the following feminists:
Bettina Aptheker, CA, U.S.
Lori Askeland, OH, U.S.
Eleanor J. Bader, NY, U.S.
Rosalyn Baxandall, NY, U.S.
Halina Bendkowski, Berlin, Germany
Saliha Boussédra, Toulouse, France
Eileen Boris, CA, U.S.
Ariel Dougherty, NM, U.S.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, CA, U.S.
Judith Ezekiel, Toulouse, France
Francisca de Haan, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Myrna Hill, CA, U.S.
Merle Hoffman, NY, U.S.
Barrie Karp, NY, U.S.
Bea Kreloff, NY, U.S.
Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Frankfurt, Germany
Ilana Lowy, Paris France
Fran Luck, NY, U.S.
Claire G. Moses, VA, U.S.
Marge Piercy, MA, U.S.
Fanette Pollack, NY, U.S.
Marilyn Porter, Newfoundland, Canada
Deborah Rosenfelt, MD, US
Kathryn Scarbrough, NJ, U.S.
Donna Schaper, NY, U.S.
Lise Vogel, NY, U.S.
Suzanna Walters, IN, U.S.
Naomi Weisstein, NY, U.S.
Barbara Winslow, NY, U.S.
Laura X, CA, U.S.
To add your name, go to:
Carol Hanisch, a founding member of New York Radical Women and an originator of the Miss America Protest (1968), is the author of "The Personal Is Political" (1969) and an editor of Redstocking's book Feminist Revolution (1973) and the journal Meeting Ground (1978-1992).