THE former hotel maid whose name is now known throughout the world stood on a small square platform in the lobby of a vast evangelical church, surrounded by men: her lawyer, church reverends, prominent black activists – a collection of charismatic speakers in a charismatic city.
She was introduced with soaring rhetoric by the Reverend Alfonso Bernard, who said she had suffered a terrible assault and would now speak for victims of rape and abuse everywhere.
Her voice quivered. “My name is Nafissatou Diallo,” she said.
Ms Diallo had appeared on television earlier in the week, describing the alleged attempted rape she claims to have suffered at the hands of former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who denies all the allegations.
Yesterday, she said: “I have been called a lot of bad names, a lot of bad things.” A New York newspaper had suggested that she was a prostitute, the district attorney’s prosecutors had appeared in court to cast doubt on her credibility. The case against her alleged attacker appeared on the brink of collapse. Mr Strauss-Kahn seemed about to go free.
“I was crying, my daughter was crying. One day, my daughter said, she told me: ‘Mum, please stop crying. People tell bad things about you because they don’t know you. You have to remember, this guy is a powerful man . . . the people that you work with, all our neighbours, all the people back home . . . these people say good things about you because they know you.’
“I said: ‘I will be strong for you and for every other woman in the world. What happened to me, I don’t want that to happen to any other woman.’ “
She thanked everyone and then stepped back.
Her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, a member of the Christian Cultural Centre in New York, had persuaded his own pastor to draw together the leaders of African-American churches and campaign groups.
Noel Leader, head of the police lobby group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, said: “This sister, this victim of a sexual abuse case . . . one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against a woman, was victimised twice. Once by Dominique Strauss-Kahn . . . but she was also victimised by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.”
Mr Thompson blamed the District Attorney’s office for leaking details of a conversation his client was said to have had with an African prisoner in Arizona, which implied that she wished to “shake down” Mr Strauss-Kahn, details he was now sure had been mistranslated from her native Fulani dialect.