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Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, pictured here on April 4, was to learn Tuesday in New York whether his claim to diplomatic immunity will allow him to escape a civil suit over alleged sexual assault. The suit was lodged against Strauss-Kahn by Manhattan hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, who alleges the French politician forced her into oral sex when she went to clean his room last year. (AFP Photo/Sergei Supinsky)

Rapists rape because they like raping (The Dominique Strauss Kahn example)

If you have been keeping track, today marks the third time in just over a year that former International Monetary Fund president Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been legally accused of rape — which does not include claims in a French book that he previous raped a maid in a Mexican hotel and 14 other women.

Strauss-Kahn, who says in his defense that the prudish press simply objects to what he terms to his “libertine” lifestyle and that the rape charges in New York were part of a vast political conspiracy, already denies raping Nafissatou Diallo and Tristane Banon and, presumably, the other 16 women who have accused him of rape.

So at what point does he stop deserving the benefit of the doubt so many were willing to accord him in the wake of Diallo’s allegations?

Statistics show that rapists are most likely white (52 percent of those reported to law enforcement in this country are); that two-thirds of rapists know their victims; that almost one-quarter are married; and that 84 percent used only physical force on their victims. Other statistics show that 72 percent of rapes go unreported; when rapes are reported, only about half of the perpetrators are ever arrested; 20 percent of those arrested never face prosecution; 40 percent of those prosecuted walk away without a felony conviction; and 30 percent of those convicted of a felony avoid jail time. In other words, 19 out of every 20 rapists walks the streets today virtually untouched by legal consequences.

That, of course, probably explains the studies that show that an inordinate number of rapists are serial rapists: studies show that somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of men who admitted to using force or intoxicants to obtain sex from an unconsenting partner (which is the definition of rape) did so more than once — an average of 6 times, in fact. And about 90 percent of the men who admitted to rape or attempting rape targeted their acquaintances at least some of the time.

In other words: rapists are not people who are unaware that what they are doing is wrong, and even knowing that what they are doing is wrong, they continue doing it. No one wakes up at 25 or 40 or 62 (Strauss-Kahn’s age at the time he is accused of assaulting Diallo) and suddenly “inadvertently” rapes one person; instead, they rape people over and over again because they enjoy doing so and they are rarely, if ever, reported and, when they are, they aren’t likely to face any significant consequences for their actions. They don’t do it because they lack access to sex (as non-rapists conceive of sex); they do it because they prefer it to sex.

And because of the stereotypes we hold about who is supposedly a rapist and who makes a “good” victim — and rapists’ willingness to exploit those stereotypes to target victims and avoid the consequences — we as a society end up allowing rapists to victimize more people. For every one victim that comes forward, statistically speaking, three usually don’t, and statistically speaking, it’s a small number of rapists victimizing multiple people.

If 18 women have now stepped forward — 3 through the legal system — to accuse Strauss-Kahn of rape, there’s no telling how many women continue to maintain their silence, particularly after his legal and PR teams dragged Diallo’s name through the mud. But one can look at the statistics and the accusations and draw at least one conclusion: either the legal systems in two countries failed one wealthy, powerful man, or it failed a lot of non-powerful women.

[Ed. note: Raw Story does not normally share the names of victims of sexual assault unless, like Diallo and Banon, they have come forward to share their stories.]

Written by | Megan Carpentier

Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.

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