Alex Blaze

New York Post Outs HIV-Positive Rape Victim

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 18, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: bhl, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, DSK, HIV/AIDS, imf, privacy, rape

I've been mulling the idea of posting about the stupid things people are saying about Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the allegation that he raped an African hotel maid, 428px-Strauss-Kahn,_Dominique_(official_portrait_2008).jpgfrom Bernard Henri-Levy's conspiracy theory about the room number to Ben Stein's claim that rich people really are the only oppressed minority left in America, about how rich and famous people are just plain not used to seeing one of their own be subject to the same criminal justice system they've wanted for years to be put in place against us peasants... but Bilerico contributor Michael Rajner emailed me a link that really takes the cake.

The New York Post has decided that the alleged victim here is the person who needs to be investigated and has reported that she lives in a housing development set aside for adults with HIV, and goes to great length to show that that means she's seropositive.

If that weren't bad enough, the cover of the Post blares "Maid HIV Shocker," says that DSK "may have more to worry about than a possible prison sentence," and refers to people who don't have HIV as "healthy," regardless of their actual health.

Housing Works is organizing protests around this (I'm not linking the Post, but Housing Works did):

Express your outrage by calling Editor-in-Chief Col Allan at (212) 930-8272, emailing [email protected], and retweeting the following message:

"NYPost reveals Strauss-Kahn's alleged victim lives in AIDS housing. Condemn their tabloid HIV scare tactics @NewYorkPost!"

And the National Minority AIDS Council (via my inbox) explains why this isn't productive:

"Instead, the press is focusing on her HIV status, a fact that has absolutely no bearing on the criminal proceedings. Speculation of this sort only serves to further stigmatize those living with HIV, and may discourage other victims of sexual violence from speaking up. It is difficult enough for rape victims to confront their attackers without having to worry about whether their sexual history or HIV status will become fodder for newspapers.

One thing that's striking about this story is what the woman who says she was raped by DSK several years ago, who decided not to take legal action out of fear that she would be the one stigmatized and effectively punished for having been raped, and her own mother persuaded her not to come forward because the two families were close.

If this is the sort of treatment rape victims get, then no wonder so few of them come forward. While the Post hasn't publishing her name (yet), that information will eventually be leaked and she'll be the one who'll have to face a competitive, low-wage employment market with the stigma that often comes when one's HIV status is known.

There's the reason this medical information must legally be kept confidential. Doing everything one can to find information from which this can be deduced and then reporting it even though it has nothing to do with the story and isn't of relevant to anyone, is just as wrong.

img wikipedia

Update: The maid's lawyer denies the claim:

The lawyer for the maid accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, said today that his client did not live in housing for people with HIV or AIDS, as reported by the New York Post under its banner headline "Hotel Maid in HIV Shock" today. "Absolutely not. she lived in a sublet apartment in the Bronx. That's outrageous," Jeffrey Shapiro said on the Today Show.

Also, per Aubrey in the comments, the maid's name has already been released in French media. I googled and confirmed, but I'm not linking.

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I was going to go for "Disgusting" but your's will work too!

The news previously reported this poor woman to be a widow, and that she is from Africa. It's starting to sound like he may have died of AIDS and infected her along the way.

This is disgusting. The poor woman has been through enough, much less having many in France thinking she's a plant (even though anyone who bothered to read would know about Strauss-Kahn's past as a sexual predator). And now to invade her private health history like this is just so ugly... she's being raped a second time.

Aubrey Haltom | May 18, 2011 11:53 PM

Just as an FYI - the maid's attorney stated on the Today show this morning that she is not HIV positive. He said she sublets an apartment in the Bronx.
@Alex - I read that the French media has released the maid's name. Is that true?
It does seem that her whole life is being outed - HIV positive or not.

I hadn't heard about that, but I just googled and found her name. Wow.

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Why is there a photo of Robert De Niro accompanying this post?

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I'm no Society of Professional Journalists ethics purist, but there are some things that you just can't violate, and the fact that rape victims - regardless of whether they have HIV - need to remain anonymous, and journalists should respect that. Of course, that statement assumes that the New York Post employs journalists...