Here I am going to talk about not only Mildred Patricia Baena, the mother of one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's children--the love child in the earlier blog post ('Love child' is preferable to 'adopted child'--but also the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Dominque Strauss-Kahn the other day in New York City. Strauss-Kahn is the former (as of yesterday) managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a worldwide wealthy bigshot who had possibly been on track to be the president of France.
Maria Shriver, the betrayed wife and mother, can go on Oprah and the love child in her home is not even mentioned (though news is leaking out), and Ms. Shriver has a cadre of friends and supporters in high places who will protect her privacy, Ms. Baena, on the other hand, apparently has not even felt free to return to her home. According to news reports, it is on a normally quiet cul de sac, now crowded with a maelstrom of television cameras, reporters and onlookers. Her neighbors have complained about the crowd, police have been called to the scene. In some quarters, she is being portrayed as a seductress who wanted only to have a powerful man's son.
I say, let's give her a break. I don't know the woman or her character, but she did work in the Shriver/Schwarzenegger household for twenty years, which means two things: that she was a good employee, but which also makes it more, rather than less, creepy for Maria and her four children. That I get, along the order of HOW COULD YOU? I can imagine yelling at the Sperminator, if I'd been the betrayed wife.
I am not saying Ms. Baena is blameless in the sexual encounter, but to me this smacks a bit of the Sally Hemings story--a slave in the household of Thomas Jefferson who bore him possibly five children. (The clear evidence is that she bore two of Jefferson's children; for the other three there is no clear known DNA connection, or family lore that names Jefferson the father.)
For Ms. Baena, the job with the Schwarzeneggers' was probably a good job, the best she could get. Yes, should could have left when he made his advances, if it came down that way. But if you are just scraping by, it is not always easy to rearrange your life. You do not have resources to fall back onto. Women who work in households from time immemorial have been subject to the advances of their male employers.
Hemings herself was Jefferson's wife's half sister; she came with Martha Wayles Skelton from her father's household when she married Jefferson. Schwarzenegger's reputation as a sexual assaulter came into the spotlight when he was running for governor, and several women stepped forward and said he had groped them, or assaulted them, in the past when he was only a movie star; Maria defended him and that was good enough for the voters. Why should we not suspect that he decided that their maid was fair game? After all, he was a big and powerful guy--and he'd done it in the past to women who didn't have the kind of power and riches that he has.
As for the hotel maid who was assaulted in the Sofitel Hotel (the defense is saying that the alleged blow job was consensual, and to that I say, yeah, right...), her life too is upended; apparently some reports in France have published her name, and when this goes to trial, one can bet that her past history, whatever it is, will be fair game for the defense. I don't know much about her except what I've read in a few reports: she was granted political asylum from Guinea, she is a single mother in her thirties who supported herself and her son with her job at the hotel; she reported the incident as soon as she ran from the room to other hotel employees who called 911.
Yet if there is a trial, and there is likely to be one, her past and reputation will be pried apart and every sexual encounter they can drum up will be used against her. And her name will be public, just as was the woman who was allegedly raped by Willliam Kennedy Smith, Patty Bowman. In a rape trial, the woman is raped twice: once during the act; the second at trial. A few movies have portrayed that quite effectively: Lipstick and The Accused are two of the best.
Personally, I am torn about the press not publishing the names of women who were raped, because by keeping them out of the paper, we continue to make the crime of being raped more shameful to the victim than say, having your purse snatched or being assaulted in a non-sexual manner. However, not publishing their names at the very least does afford the women some privacy. However, since the press undoubtedly knows the name of the woman in the Strauss-Kahn case, they are already building a profile of her for the future. It's a difficult question. I know I am veering off subject today of being a first/birth mother, but rape cases and what happens to the women in sex scandals kinda makes me nuts. (And the privacy issue, well, that reminds me of another one. Anyone care to venture which one?)
As for myself, I was raped by someone I dated briefly when I wanted to end our relationship, such as it was. I did not report it to the police, I knew I could never build a case. I just wanted him out of my life. And he was. After.--lorraine