NEW YORK—State Sen. Bill Perkins called on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to continue pursuing the sexual assault case against former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn on behalf of a Sofitel hotel worker.
Perkins issued a letter to Vance prior to the press conference held on Sunday in the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem.
“We believe that the district attorney has a responsibility to pursue this case, because apparently there is some evidence that merited him getting involved to begin with,” Perkins said.
The state senator was joined by dozens of representatives from various human rights groups, women’s rights groups, clergy members, and others. These groups referred to the unnamed victim in the case as “Hawa.”
The call from Perkins comes on the heels of a series of recent reports from the media, based on anonymous sources and unconfirmed reports, that have played a destructive role in portraying the woman’s character.
“His [Strauss-Kahn’s] credibility, I believe, is an issue, too. I believe there’s a history of allegations that have been reported with respect to this man. In fact, I believe there’s a case being pursued as we speak,” Perkins said, referring to a case filed in France by Tristane Banon, 32, a journalist who has claimed that Strauss-Kahn attempted to rape her in 2003 in an empty apartment during an interview for a book project.
Vance has recently shown signs that he may be unwilling to pursue the case, based on negative information discovered regarding the victim during the investigation.
“We find it very troubling to hear that this case is in a possibility of being dismissed,” said Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. “For the justice of women, whether they are minority or non-minority, for the justice of women, we ask that this case be heard.”
Representatives from women’s rights and other groups stressed that the district attorney should stress pursuing the case and disregard information regarding the victim’s character. For Vance, the case may become overly complex and sensational, endangering his future career.
“We are outraged by the statements by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, the tabloid media, most notably the New York Post, and leaks from unnamed sources from the prosecution, attempting to destroy Hawa’s character,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, director of Sanctuary for Families. “They have insidiously succeeded in shifting the focus from the act of sexual violence perpetrated by Strauss-Kahn to Hawa’s character.”Leidholdt pointed out that Banon is also being accused of faking her attempted rape claims against Strauss-Kahn. She believes that it is only a matter of time that attempts to destroy Baton’s character will also begin.
“When a woman reports a case of sexual assault, her character must not be the focus of the debate. The focus must be full access to justice in a court of law,” Leidholdt said.