The New York Times traveled to Guinea, West Africa, to profile the woman who on May 14 accused then-head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn of groping her, attempting to rape her and forcing her to perform oral sex in his hotel room. Much was made about the victim’s identity in the initial swirl of interest around the case, with the U.S. press protecting her name and the French press, which was often sympathetic to their potential future president, airing out the details of her life right away. But as the trial approaches, Strauss-Kahn’s defense claims in court that they possess “substantial information” that will “gravely undermine her credibility.” Thanks to a fair Times portrait, that seems unlikely. For starters, as far as that damning evidence goes, “They have not provided any details.”
Though a careful, definitive account of her life up to this point was necessary, that doesn’t mean the Times piece doesn’t relish in a bit of dramatics or cultural gawking. Here is the very first paragraph:
She was born in a mud hut in an isolated hamlet in Africa with no electricity or running water, a 10-minute hike to the nearest road. Unschooled, she was married off to a distant cousin as a teenager, had a daughter and was soon widowed.
But on character and through her actions, the woman comes across well, and she is seemingly tortured by the position she has been forced into. For example, “The woman herself has stayed out of public view in recent weeks and has not spoken to reporters.”
Her brother portrays her to the Times as devout, and that now she is “suffering.”
“The place where she is now,” he said, “I don’t even know where it is.”
In addition the religion, there’s her biography, including the birth of her daughter, becoming a widow and her move to the United States, where she “melted into” her West African community in the Bronx.
The woman, now 32, is “an unassuming and hard-working single mother,” which makes the one Times mention about her lawyer more thought-provoking. The prosecutor is described as having “obtained large civil settlements for his clients.”
If the woman described in this story exists, perhaps instead of pursuing justice, she’ll choose to settle — not to profit off of a powerful man, but to make this whole thing go away.