Santa Rosa, CA ~ June 1 2011
Maid in America
Scroll down for link to "Maid in America" in SpanishBy Marie De Santis
Much as we rail against the dearth of justice for rape victims, the toppling of IMF chief Strauss-Kahn by the outcry of an immigrant woman gives dramatic pause to the pessimism. So many things, every one of them essential, were done so right, by so many people, in such rapid succession, that this same arrest would not likely have occurred even a year ago.
In all its elements, the story is a striking reminder that amidst the galloping greed and crushing inequalities, there is still much worth fighting for in this infamous land of ours. And still real heroes to hail. There is the African maid whose enormous courage and self-respect was matched by her towering trust that she could reach for help and dare to accuse an elite guest of her employer. Like so many immigrants whose untarnished belief in American ideals gives constant renewal to our own jaded recitals of ‘equality and justice for all’, she revives us!
There are the legions of advocates, - immigrant rights advocates, workers’ rights, civil rights, and women’s rights advocates, - who are endlessly fighting losing battles. But at the end of the day, no matter the defeats, just the existence of their struggles gives strength and voice to the dignity of maids everywhere.
There are the hotel staff persons, whoever you are. It wasn’t your job descriptions or your personal cause to stand up for the maid’s sexual rights against a global titan paying $3,000 a night at your boss’s luxury hotel. But stand up, you did! You believed her. You sided with her, and reached out for more help.
There is journalist Grahm Rayman and the staff of the Village Voice who exactly one year ago in May 2010 dug deep and exposed the downgrading and disregard of rape cases by the New York City Police Department. And braver still, are the NYC police officers who came forward in that series to publicly verify the injustices.
It was those articles that ignited the activists to demand the changes which were put in place just five short months ago; changes without which the split second timing of the Strauss-Kahn arrest almost certainly wouldn’t have taken place. And it was the members of the New York City Sex Working Group that grappled with the problem and forged the recommendations for change, foremost of which was that the NYPD should have specialized sex crimes detectives, - not the patrol officers -, interview the rape victims and conduct rape investigations from the initial victim call.
And it was NY Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly who had the fortitude to adopt and implement those recommendations on December 22, 2010; seven months after the problems came to light, and just five months before the maid at the Sofitel so desperately needed the solutions; the expert victim interview, the specialized investigation techniques, an experienced, unbiased detective to make it happen, and fast.
It was the corporate decision of the world class Sofitel Hotel to throw its heft and global reputation on the side of the maid, and cooperate with police against their mighty client , his dollars, and his daunting global power.
And it was Nicky Diaz Santillan, nine years working as a maid for Meg Whitman, who just last summer showed the way by speaking out against Whitman’s mistreatment of her, toppling Whitman’s filthy rich attempt to buy herself the governorship of California.
Our gratitude, on behalf of women everywhere, to all of you!
It’s not that justice for rape victims, or maids, has arrived, by any stretch. Quite the contrary. U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearings last September made clear that police are still wholesale burying rape cases and denying justice to rape victims in cities across the nation.
And maids throughout America still routinely suffer a litany of workplace abuses with impunity.
And, without doubt, the rape of the Sofitel maid should never even have happened in the first place.
The rape happened because, for years, hundreds of other hotel workers, employers, journalists, and sundry bystanders of every ilk, turned a blind eye to Strauss-Kahn’s well known trait of being “too pushy” with women and a deaf ear to the women who cried out.
But the singular event of the immigrant maid standing to accuse the IMF chief of rape, accompanied by the effective support of so many, leading to his indictment, is a monumental testament that ‘equality and justice for all’ is not pie-in-the-sky utopia or liberal fairyland delusion.
It is tangible and attainable. It lives or dies in the hearts of every day people. It emerges or not in the work-a-day broil of daily community functions. And its righteousness as remedy against wrong is still worth every bit of the struggle.
Copyright © Marie De Santis Women's Justice Center
Criada en U.S.A.Por mucho que protestemos contra la escasez de justicia para víctimas de violación, la caída del director gerente del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, debido a la denuncia de una mujer inmigrante le da una pausa dramática al pesimismo. Tantas cosascada una de ellas esencialfueron hechas tan correctamente por tantas personas, en una secuencia tan rápida, que probablemente este arresto no habría ocurrido ni siquiera hace un año.