Dominique Strauss-Kahn's Maid Nafissatou Diallo Describes Alleged Attack
In an exclusive interview in this week's NEWSWEEK, Nafissatou Diallo tells her story.
The hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault and attempted rape is breaking her silence, telling Newsweek that she worried as she was being assaulted that she was going to lose her job and later feared for her life after learning the man she accused was a powerful French politician.
Known to the American public only as the nameless, faceless, alleged victim dubbed “the DSK maid,” Nafissatou Diallo, 32, agreed to let the magazine publish her name and her photograph, and spoke on the record about how a naked man with white hair grabbed her after she entered to clean a $3,000-a-night suite at Manhattan’s Sofitel Hotel on Saturday, May 14.
She also described pushing and shoving as she tried to fight off the alleged attack from Strauss-Kahn before being pushed to the ground and forced to perform fellatio. When it was over, Diallo fled to a hallway to hide, she said. The interview, conducted by Newsweek Editor in Chief Tina Brown, Paris Bureau Chief Christopher Dickey, and News Director John Solomon at the 5th Avenue offices of the Thompson Wigdor law firm lasted more than three hours.
“I run out of [the suite],” Diallo said in basic but expressive English. “I don’t turn back. I run to the hallway. I was so nervous; I was so scared. I didn’t want to lose my job.”
Diallo said she decided to go public—first in an interview with Newsweek/The Daily Beast and later this week on television with ABC’s Robin Roberts—because she wanted to counter anonymous attacks and inaccurate media portrayals that she is everything from a gold-digging con artist to a part-time prostitute.
“Because of him, they call me a prostitute,” Diallo said angrily, referring to Strauss-Kahn. “I want him to go to jail. I want him to know there are some places you cannot use your power, you cannot use your money.”
Strauss-Kahn, who was the head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading contender for the French presidency at the time of the alleged attack, has pleaded not guilty to criminal sexual assault, attempted rape, and related charges. In what appeared a dramatic reversal for the prosecution's case on June 1, Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on his own recognizance after prosecutors informed the court they had uncovered evidence that Diallo provided false information, including a bogus story about an earlier rape in Guinea used to help win asylum in the United States. She also filed an inaccurate tax return and a misleading application for low-income housing, according to prosecutors.
Given that there is DNA evidence confirming a sexual encounter, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have hinted in court they may argue the event was consensual, but otherwise have not provided much detail about his side of the story. Their strategy has been to undermine Diallo’s position and her representation by attorneys Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor who are expected to file a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn.
“What disgusts me,” Strauss-Kahn lawyer William Taylor told Newsweek, “is an effort to pressure the prosecutors with street theater, and that is fundamentally wrong.”
In Diallo’s interview, which at points was theatrical as she fell to her knees and grabbed her head to re-enact aspects of the attack, she denied that money was a motive for her reporting the alleged assault, even though she first hired a civil attorney at the recommendation of a friend shortly after the attack. “We are poor, but we are good,” she said of her family. “I don’t think about money.”
Prosecutors have a tape of a conversation between Diallo and an illegal immigrant convicted on a drug charge and being held in an Arizona detention center in which the subject of Strauss-Kahn's wealth apparently came up. A purported statement from the tape was leaked to The New York Times in a story published July 1. But sources familiar with the tape told Newsweek the conversation in Diallo's native tongue of Fulani had not yet even been fully transcribed and the leak was based instead on a summary and not an actual translation.
After an initial police interview the day of the attack, Diallo was taken to the hospital for examination, then back to the hotel with the police to walk through what had happened to her, showing them where she stood, where she fell, where she spit. The morning after the attack, Diallo watched television news and discovered the identity and powerful political pedigree of the white-haired man she accused of attacking her. “I watched Channel 7 and they say this is [the] guy—I don’t know—and he is going to be the next president of France. And I think they are going to kill me.”
While defending her reputation, Diallo also acknowledged some of the problems that have led prosecutors to question her credibility. She said she lied on her asylum application because she wanted to get her daughter into the United States to live with her so that the young girl would not suffer the same genital mutilation she herself suffered in Guinea when she was 7 years old.
“Yes, I did make mistakes. But I make those mistakes because was afraid to go back to my country,” she said. “I didn’t want her to get cut like me,” she said of her daughter, now 15 and living with her in the United States.The latest edition of Newsweek magazine, on newsstands Monday, also provides new details on the hours just before the attack and the days immediately afterward.
Among the revelations:
- Hospital records support many aspects of Diallo's account of the alleged attack, noting that, five hours after the alleged attack, there was "redness" in the area of the vagina where she alleges Strauss-Kahn grabbed her. The medical records also note she complained of “pain to left shoulder." Defense lawyers have also scoured the medical records, looking for any inconsistencies in what she told doctors and what she alleged to police and prosecutors.
- Strauss-Kahn made a phone call to his daughter at 12:15 p.m., just nine minutes after Diallo entered his suite, according to a source familiar with the phone records. The call may give defense lawyers a point in time to argue when the incident ended.
- Prosecutors are weeks away from making a decision on whether to drop the charges or proceed to trial and are building a suspect profile on Strauss-Kahn, gleaning information from other women who allege they had consensual affairs or were attacked by the former IMF boss.
The full Newsweek story on Diallo will be available on newsstands on Monday morning. It is accompanied by an essay by former French Vogue Editor Joan Juliet Buck on Strauss-Kahn’s billionaire wife and the state of feminism in France, titled: “Too Proud to Be Jealous.”