French women's groups say complaints of sexual harassment have risen a full 600% since Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged assault of a hotel maid. Women may feel more comfortable speaking out — but they may also be responding to men's dismissive attitude toward the story.
According to the Independent, anti-sexual harassment group the Association Europeénne Contre les Violence Faites aux Femmes au Travail has seen a sixfold jump in complaint calls since the DSK story broke. And Olivia Cattan, head of women's group Paroles des Femmes, says, "The telephone never stops ringing. It's as if an invisible barrier has broken."
Elaine Sciolino has speculated that the DSK scandal could get French women talking about sexual harassment. And when a former employee came forward to accuse French mayor Georges Tron of assault, she said, "When I saw that a chambermaid was capable of taking on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I told myself I didn't have the right to keep quiet." But it may not just be the maid's courage that's spurring French women to speak up — it may also be men's jerkitude. One former minister said DSK should've gotten bail right away, because "no one is dead." Then of course there was Bernard-Henri Levy's widely quoted pro-DSK rant. Says former French women's rights minister Yvette Roudy, "What persuaded many women to speak out at last was the dismissive and macho reactions of some of our male politicians."
It's a little strange to think of a bright side to the misogyny and rape apology that's sprung up in many defenses of DSK. And it would be nice if we could all take sexual harassment seriously without a bunch of people having to be assholes first. But given that they have been assholes, it's encouraging to see that French women — in impressive numbers — aren't taking it anymore.