The whole truth, and nothing but the truth

Trigger alert

“What is Truth?”

The irony of these words was likely not lost on the early Christians, the first readers of the Gospels. The Roman Pilate asks this question of Jesus, the one who had said of himself, “I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life.” The truth that Christians proclaim is not a truth that we have reached philosophically, by asking the right questions in the right order – Christ was foolishness to the Greeks (and the Romans, their inheritors.) Truth is not (for Christians) a matter of “what?” but of “who?”

If “none is good but God alone,” it is also true that “none is trustworthy but God alone.”

Consider the above to be the scriptural / theological preamble to my revisiting of the DSK case.  For more than a month, I have been intending to follow up on my earlier post, in order to focus more on the subsequent trial by media of Nafissatou Diallo, the woman who said that Strauss-Kahn assaulted her while she was at work.  (Though it is also true that I avoided blogging for awhile, because I didn’t know if I could bring myself to write about it.)

A friend of mine recently wrote an excellent post about state executions, entitled “I am Lawrence Brewer.” Inspired by her post, I would like to myself claim, “I am Nafissatou Diallo.”

The truth is, only God knows the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what happens when any two persons are alone together.  We may have forensic evidence, we may make a best effort, we may surmise, but we cannot know.  But our desire to know – our desire to discover the truth of events that we were not present for – often masks a more disturbing reality – we do not even know the truth of events that involve us directly.  Or, to take the focus off of ourselves for a moment (phew!): Mr. Strauss-Kahn and Ms. Diallo do not themselves know the whole truth about what happened in that room.  (And, as William Saletan points out in Slate, no matter what DSK may say, the prosecutors do not claim to know for certain what happened in that room either.  He was let go for lack of clear evidence, not for exculpatory evidence.)

Too often, men who rape women do not see what they have done as wrong, as violent, or as non-consensual.  There are some individuals for whom an absolute overpowering of a woman against her will is a turn-on, but I believe that sexual assault is so widespread because there are far too many men who do not have a robust conception of what constitutes “consent” or a lack thereof.

Too often, women who have been raped cannot tell the truth about it (or even remember the truth about it), in part because they fear they will not be believed, and in part because they do not wish to believe it themselves:  they do not wish to believe that they can be so easily overpowered or coerced, they do not wish to believe that any man (or this particular man) would do so, they do not wish to believe that they could forget any number of details of the attack (failing to record a mental impression of the event is common for trauma victims)…

And they do not wish to open themselves up to the Monday morning quarterbacks:  “If you had not been alone with him… If you had not been dressed so suggestively… if you had not let him [kiss, touch, fondle] you first… If you had not been out at that time [or in that neighborhood, or with that crowd of people]… If you had not been so [naive, stupid, confident, old, young, pretty, ugly, skinny, fat, drunk, drugged, frigid, loose]… If you had only done what [my friend who avoided a similar rape because she had more cleverness/quickness/faith in God than you]… Then you would not have been in this situation.”

Would that be the situation when someone utterly disregarded my repeated “NO!,” my physical struggle, my back bleeding against the flagstones?  I suppose that had to be my fault.  Not his?

Which is how, following being raped myself (the first time), I told a different version of it to almost every person I met.  And in the first versions, it was consensual.  Which (along with my Dad’s promise that he would kill a guy who ever did that to me, which I was all too scared he would follow through on) is a good bit of what kept me from reporting it.  I knew I wasn’t a credible witness.  I had snuck out of my house, was drinking underage, and had told a couple of friends the next morning that the sex was consensual.

I wonder what he thought of what happened?  I cannot know, since he took his life just a couple of years later.  It was years before I could feel sorry that he had done that to himself. Forgive me, Lord, for having celebrated his death.  I do not do so now.  You continue to unfold to me what it means that you are love, and that love is therefore the sum total of what is true.

I am Nafissatou Diallo – for I understand that I am lost, and that I do not speak the truth with any consistency.  And I am Dominique Strauss-Kahn – for I understand that I am blind to my own selfish domination of others – that it is done by corporations and governments on my behalf makes it no less intimate a violence for those who are held down as they struggle.  (I am the very model of a modern cow of Bashan.) None is good but God alone.

For more of my thoughts on honesty, you may wish to see these related posts:

On Acts 5 (Guest entry for Will Grady’s Advent Blog, 2007)

I’m Sorry and I’m Sorry, Part 2

Cultural Anthropology

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