Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel maid who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape, has given an exclusive interview to Newsweek. This is a bold move: Neither Slate media critic Jack Shafer nor I could remember an alleged rape victim in such a high profile case going on the record in this way (if you can think of others, please mention in the comments). Diallo says that she decided to tell her story because she wanted to provide a corrective to media narratives about her; so she could address the holes in her testimony as accurately reported by the New York Times, and the New York Post story in which they called her a prostitute (Diallo is suing the Post for defamation).
No one knows for certain what went on in that hotel room—DSK sure isn't talking—but the vivid and upsetting way Diallo describes the incident rings true to me:
“He pulls me hard to the bed,” she said. He tried to put his penis in her mouth, she said, and as she told the story she tightened her lips and turned her face from side to side to show how she resisted. “I push him. I get up. I wanted to scare him. I said, ‘Look, there is my supervisor right there.’” But the man said there was nobody out there, and nobody was going to hear.
Diallo kept pushing him away: “I don’t want to hurt him,” she told us. “I don’t want to lose my job.” He shoved back, moving her down the hallway from the bedroom toward the bathroom. Diallo’s uniform dress buttoned down the front, but Strauss-Kahn didn’t bother with the buttons, she said. He pulled it up around her thighs and tore down her pantyhose, gripping her crotch so hard that it was still red at the hospital, hours later. He pushed her to her knees, her back to the wall. He forced his penis into her mouth, she said, and he gripped her head on both sides. “He held my head so hard here,” she said, putting her hands to her cranium. “He was moving and making a noise. He was going like ‘uhh, uhh, uhh.’ He said, ‘Suck my’—I don’t want to say.” The report from the hospital where Diallo was taken later for examination notes that “she felt something wet and sour come into her mouth and she spit it out on the carpet.”
As Rachael Larimore pointed out in an earlier post, just because Diallo has credibility problems because of inaccuracies on her application for asylum to the U.S., doesn't mean that she wasn't raped. The most damning bit of information in the Newsweek article was the description of Diallo's injuries. She claimed that DSK grabbed her vagina, and the hospital records show that she had a redness in the area that was consistent with her report. Diallo also spoke of shoulder pain after her encounter with DSK, and the hospital records back that up, too.
The Newsweek article addresses other problems with Diallo's case—most notably the alleged transcript between Diallo and an acquaintance who is in prison:
On July 1, The New York Times reported the existence of a taped conversation between Diallo and Tarawally. The article said they talked the day after the incident at the Sofitel and quoted a “well-placed law enforcement official”: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing.’” But at the time, prosecutors did not have a full transcript of the call, which had been conducted in a dialect of Fulani, Diallo’s language. The quote was a paraphrase from a translator’s summary of the tape, and the actual words are somewhat different, sources told NEWSWEEK.
Diallo's credibility issues may prevent a jury from taking her word seriously. But just as in the case of the New York City cops who were acquitted of rape, just because a jury has a reasonable doubt in the accused's guilt, doesn't mean that nothing untoward happened.