LFJ: Unbelievable. The violence in both accounts is horrifying. The journalist describes protracted combat. And in France, the name of the hotel employee accusing Strauss-Kahn is all over the place--her name, her picture, the fact that she is Muslim—because they have no laws to protect rape victims.
More: Good for her for reporting it. That took a lot of courage.
LFJ: Exactly. Do you know how hard that is, to do a rape kit, to go to a grand jury? The statistics alone are a reason a film should be made. One in six American women will be raped. Only 40 percent of those rapes will be reported. What is that about? Victims blame themselves: “I shouldn’t have been in that part of town, worn that outfit, gotten drunk…”
More: In the case of the hotel housekeeper, she was just doing her job. Clearly, if her account proves to be true, he felt he was entitled. There’s a long history of powerful men who think they can do what they want with women, and not be held accountable.
LFJ: Power, privilege, entitlement, an inflated ego…People have always noted that sexual violence isn’t about sex, it’s about power. Even in his prior actions, his treatment of women, he’s the embodiment of centuries of male entitlement.
More: As soon as there was DNA evidence against Strauss-Kahn, his lawyer brought out the “consensual” argument. There is a cab driver in your movie who did the same.
LFJ: You really can’t argue with the DNA, so of course he has to go with the consensual. Even when there’s no DNA, they argue that it’s consensual. It’s a common thing for an accused man to argue that this is a false claim, out of vindictiveness.
More: Former Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau speaks very effectively in your film about an attitude that goes back to the 16th century, that men had to be protected from such charges. The laws were designed to protect a man’s “honor.”
LFJ: And until the ‘70s in New York, men were protected, because the burden of proof was on the rape victim.
More: Former Sex Crimes Unit chief Linda Fairstein says it very well in your documentary: Until the law was changed, “a category of crime least likely to be witnessed by anybody else” required witnesses.
LFJ: One of my goals was to show not only the unit, but the history, how the laws regarding sex crimes have changed. A lot of people aren’t aware of that
More: Yes, the movie is a useful reminder of how far we’ve come: Corroboration is no longer required. Lawyers are no longer allowed to introduce a plaintiff’s whole sexual history. Fairstein points out that prior to the ‘70s, “marital rape was not a crime. There was no such thing as stalking. Acquaintance rape was not prosecuted.” Now, according to your film, 80 percent of the crimes reported to the Sex Crimes Unit are acquaintance rapes. I was also wondering, listening to the lawyers discuss cases, if there’s been a rise in rape in New York because of a rise in club action. There’s more opportunity to prey on young women who have been drugged or have had too much to drink.
LFJ: That seemed to be implied. There are definitely men who stalk the clubs for that purpose. In the film, you hear them say that one guy used a certain club as his “personal fishing ground.”
More: What was the most surprising thing you learned about the Sex Crimes Unit?
LFJ: I was really surprised that a film about sexual violence could be so full of laughter and humanity. To have a camera following around, I thought they’d be acting like warriors, but they were obsessing about their weight, talking about the Yankees, their crushes on movie stars, filling out their kids’ financial aid forms. There’s a wonderful humanity that came through, which helps leaven the severity of the subject matter.