Back in 2011, Cyrus Vance, New York City’s attorney general, dropped the charges against Strauss-Kahn on the ground that the victim—who had been extensively attacked by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers and by journalists eager to discredit an African refugee woman—was not credible, though she later won a settlement in a civil suit with, of course, a nondisclosure agreement that silenced her. The Daily News reported in 2018, “FBI agents are probing the Manhattan district attorney’s office over its handling of high-profile cases that were dropped once lawyers for the well-connected subjects made donations, the Daily News has learned.
Manhattan’s top prosecutor came under fire last year after questions surfaced about his office’s 2015 decision not to go after ex-Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein after model Ambra Battilana accused him of groping her breasts in his Tribeca office. A lawyer hired by Weinstein at the time had given Vance $24,000 and another attorney sent him $10,000 after the decision to spare the powerful producer an arrest.” We read back then that a woman had tried to report on Weinstein’s sexual crimes in the New York Times in 2004, only to have her male editor dismiss the story; we learned this time around that another woman journalist tried to report in 2003 on Epstein’s sexual abuse of a 16-year-old, only to have her Vanity Fair editor, under direction of Graydon Carter, delete that part of her story. In patriarchy, no one can hear you scream.
These stories about the famously rich and powerful are illustrative of how it works, but the system of patriarchy doesn’t only work for them. A perfect specimen of how it used to work and often still does for any privileged male emerged this month in reports about a rape case in New Jersey, one in which an incapacitated 16-year-old girl was allegedly assaulted by a boy who filmed himself raping her and shared the video with the text “when your first time having sex is rape.” The New York Times reported of the judge in the case, “But a family court judge said it wasn’t rape. Instead, he wondered aloud if it was sexual assault, defining rape as something reserved for an attack at gunpoint by strangers. He also said the young man came from a good family, attended an excellent school, had terrific grades and was an Eagle scout. Prosecutors, the judge said, should have explained to the girl and her family that pressing charges would destroy the boy’s life.”
Judge James Troiano said, “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.” In other words, because he was a privileged boy on the path to being a privileged man, he mattered so much that the victim did not matter at all, and the fact that he’d committed a crime did not matter either, which lays the groundwork for him and others like him to keep committing crimes and victims of those crimes to be told their rights don’t matter.