Home · News

Real Talk: Did the Black Maid Stand a Chance?

Dominique Strauss-Khan walks away scot-free after escaping rape charges.
Last month I wrote about Nafissatou Diallo, “Nafi” aka the now 33-year-old Black domestic who dared to accuse one of the most powerful men in the world of rape. She alleged that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, had forced her to perform oral sex in a Manhattan Hotel.
“I want him to go to jail,” she told Newsweek. “I want him to know there some places you cannot use your power, you cannot use your money.”
If you believe Diallo’s allegations, then you’ll be sad to know that the utopian place she dreams of has yet to be found. Yesterday, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office filed a motion to dismiss the three-month-old sexual assault case against DSK. The document describes Diallo as, “persistently, and at times inexplicably, untruthful in describing matters of both great and small significance.” The prosecutors added, “the nature and number of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt.”
One of the biggest blows to Diallo’s credibility, according to the District Attorney’s office, was a story she crafted to get a green card. Diallo said she was gang raped by soldiers in her native Guinea, which she later acknowledged was a lie. Her credibility was also damaged by a recorded phone conversation where Diallo allegedly expressed interest in making money from whatever took place in the hotel room.

The motion was “a hatchet job on Ms. Diallo’s credibility,” Diallo’s lawyer said in a news conference. He added: “[The prosecutors] appear to bend over backwards to try to excuse their decision to run away from this case.”

(It should be noted that DSK’s credibility is also troubled. His background is littered with sexual misconduct claims and he’s currently facing another potential attempted rape charge in France.)

I can’t say I’m surprised by this turn of events, but I’m still saddened to see them happen. I understand the DA’s hesitation, but I also understand that people are imperfect and no one’s background can withstand the intense scrutiny of a search looking for character shortcomings and moral lapses. Flaws and all, I would have liked Diallo to have the opportunity to tell her story in a court of law, not just the one of public opinion, and allow a jury decide the truth.

In my initial post on this topic, I noted one in four Black women would be raped in her lifetime. And yet, just 7% of Black women will report the crime to police. I fear that the prosecution’s dismissal of this well-publicized case will discourage more women from reporting their attackers, especially if they don’t have squeaky clean backgrounds, a preponderance of evidence to support their claims, and/or an all-star legal team to aid their cause.  

Whether or not the DSK case should carry the burden of making other women second-guess coming forward, it does. This fateful outcome sends a damaging message that it’s still a wealthy White man’s world, and women, especially Black ones, just aren’t worth the effort.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Vote for her now on literaryawardshow.com