Who is Tristane Banon? Dominique Strauss-Kahn's Latest Accuser is a Family Friend

on July 05 2011 5:29 PM
Tristane Banon
French writer Tristane Banon leaves the office of her lawyer David Koubbi in Paris May 17, 2011. Reuters

Just as Dominique Strauss-Kahn looked as though he would wash his hands clean of sexual assault accusations in the U.S., a French writer filed a complaint alleging that the former IMF chief attempted to rape her during a 2003 interview.

Accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault is about the only thing- besides age- that Tristane Banon has in common with the chambermaid who accused Strauss-Kahn of raping her in May. The Sofitel hotel worker is a 32-year old West African immigrant and devout Muslim with a teenage daughter and what appear to be romantic ties with a man incarcerated in Arizona.

Tristane Banon is a glamourous French journalist turned novelist, born to a Socialist party politician in a wealthy French suburb.  Banon's family background plays heavily into the chronology of her story: She is the goddaugher of Strauss-Kahn's second wife, Brigitte Guillemette. She is also a good friend and close in age to Strauss-Kahn's daughter, Camille.  And it was Banon's mother, Anne Mansouret, the Socialist vice-president of the general council of Eure, who discouraged her daughter from pressing charges against the family friend initially.

Mansouret has since said she regrets the advice, which she claims she gave to protect her daughter from scandal and because she believed the behavior to be so out of character for Strauss-Kahn. Today I am sorry to have discouraged my daughter from complaining. I bear a heavy responsibility, she told journalists earlier this week.

So why is Banon coming forward now? For one, the statute of limitations on attempted rape in France is ten years. Banon also might have been inspired by the doubt cast on Strauss-Kahn in light of the chambermaid's accusations. When explaining why she waited so long to press charges in an interview with the French magazine L'Express, Banon expressed concerns that her credibility would be doubted. It is even harder when you know in advance that it is doomed to failure, she said.

Banon also said that she just wanted to forget about the incident and move on, a task that has likely been made more difficult with her accused attacker's name in newspaper headlines all over the world.

I know that half will believe me, the others not, she says in the L'Express interview, translated by the New York Times. There is no good solution, only one that means I can finally look at myself in the mirror. For once, I want to be in control of what happens. I want people to listen to me, because I have, perhaps, finally, a chance to be heard.

Although an official complaint was not filed until this week, Strauss-Kahn was aware that a potential scandal was brewing: Banon's lawyer, David Koubbi, has been promising that formal charges would be brought against DSK for months. Strauss-Kahn denied the accusations in an interview in March - two months before the chambermaid scandal -  for a biography meant to coincide with a possible Presidential bid. The scene she recounts is imaginary. Do you see me throwing a woman on the floor and being violent, as she claims it?

The interview where the alleged assault of Banon took place was during a follow-up discussion - at the request of Strauss-Kahn - for Banon's 2003 essay collection Erreurs avouées ...(au masculine), which roughly translates to Confessed Errors...the masculine way, and was about the biggest mistakes of political figures.

[Sources: The New York Times, Slate, The Telegraph]

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