Nafissatou Diallo’s name was outed months ago by the French press, but American journalists had declined to publish the name of the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape. Now, with DSK’s court date fast approaching, Diallo has given lengthy interviews with her account of the incident to Newsweek and Good Morning America, allowing both her name and image to be released. Diallo opted for the media blitz, she told ABC’s Robin Roberts, because “I want him to go to jail.” Coming forward is a way to wrest back control of the narrative: Stories about Diallo’s liminal background have badly damaged her credibility as a witness, and her defense team has obviously decided that attaching a sympathetic face with those accusations will help Diallo’s case, at least in the court of public opinion.
She is indeed appealing and animated while telling her story, even if, as Newsweek somewhat puzzlingly points out, she is “not glamorous.” (The reporters seem to have been hoping that central casting would send someone with better highlights to play the part of the immigrant single mother, a childhood victim of gential mutilation, now making $25 an hour cleaning hotel rooms: “Her light-brown skin is pitted with what look like faint acne scars, and her dark hair is hennaed, straightened, and worn flat to her head, but she has a womanly, statuesque figure.”)
Diallo (at the behest of her lawyers, clearly) was vague about her life in Guinea, as well as the exact nature of her relationship with the convicted marijuana dealer whom she called after the alleged incident — though she does explain that he helped win her over with “not very good” fake designer bags.
Diallo’s recounting of the DSK encounter, which took at most fifteen minutes, largely matches the account she gave to police:
“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.
As compelling as the dialogue might be in shaping Diallo’s story, it stands in contrast to a previous statement she made — that there was no conversation between her and the ex-IMF chief. Prosecutors will probably seize on that inconsistency, adding it their pile. But Diallo’s defense team has obviously decided that’s a risk they are willing to take; if they can swing the pendulum of sympathy back Diallo’s way, the small details might be overwhelmed by the bigger picture.