Fatou Toufah Jallow’s Story: Rape Is A Public Health Issue
It was before Ramadan. I’m not sure what date Ramadan was in 2015. But I did receive a call from Jimbee again and she said that it’s been a while and that there is a Quran recitation at the State House. The normal Gammo that we do have. So, I took my veil and my dress, and I remember asking her if the other girls are there and then she said yes, the other girls are there. So, it’s an official gathering, so it was okay to go because this is not one of those that I’m going to a private meeting. And then she said that Landing was coming to pick me up. And Landing did. And then we went to the State House. We passed the garden and the garden was filled on that day with a lot of people wearing white. Ministers and other people that normally sit in the VIP were there. The president was not seated. I could not see him sitting there, and our car had to pass for me to be on the side because the president was coming to take his seat and if that is happening cars are not allowed to loiter around there. People are not allowed to be walking around, or everybody just stands up and wait for him to come. So, the car went next to an office, very similar to the one that I went to with the girls the first time we came, and we were waiting for the president to finish praying. So, I was there and Jimbee said hi to me and that you get sick all the time, and that it has been a while and hope I am fine. We had that conversation and we were sitting there, and the narrative was that the president is taking a seat and as soon as he finishes taking his seat, then I can come out and join behind in the group, but I cannot walk around to take my seat while he’s doing the same. “Protocol” as Jimbee will call it. And then Jimbee said that I and her should move to the next room because some people were coming to use the room that we were in. So, we moved to the next room to wait for the president to come. And that’s what we did. We moved to the next room. Jimbee was there with me and she was on her phone. And she decided that she was going to go get something…… water. So Jimbee left the room and I was seated there. Now we were in the second room apart from where the waiting area is and, out of nowhere and so unexpectedly, the president walks into the same room from a door. Now was he there before I got into that space, I don’t know. I do not know the building enough to know where he had come from. It’s also a waiting area, but it has brown doors, like three of them. I do not know which one of them is an exit and which one is a bedroom. But I get to know later that it was a bedroom. As for the other two doors, I don’t know if they were exits or if they were bedrooms as well. So, when he walked in, again, he wasn’t all dressed like a ready-made dress as if he was going to take his seat. He wasn’t wearing his full costume that he wears to go outside. But I don’t know if the redness of his eyes was anger, if the redness of his eyes was something induced? I don’t know. But all I know was that his eyes were very red. And that scared me for a second. But I greeted him, and he didn’t respond, and he said to me, who do you think you are? And that he is the president and he gets any woman he wants. He pulled his hand to reach out to me like to kind of grab me, but it was with the back of his hand. It’s like if you want to scare somebody but not really hit them. And then held onto my arms here and then he dragged me and opened that door that I was talking about. The brown door. And he pushed me on and then locked the door. Now this was a small room. It had a small bed which was not very high. It was white in the room. The couch, the pillows, the bed, the ceiling of the house. And there was a washroom there as well. He said, let’s see if you are a virgin. And I swear to God that I was scared, and I started to apologize to say that I am sorry. Please don’t do this. I am sorry because he appeared very angry and I was apologizing. I don’t know if it was because he was angry, or what happened before that. But he held my face, he pulled his pants down, and he rubbed his genitals in my face. More like hands on my head this way and like pulling this way, I was underneath. It was like I was right by his pelvis, as he rubbed his genitals on my face. I had a dress on and leggings underneath. The dress was more like an “Abaya,” because it was Gammo. He pulled my dress up and he was just saying things and……. I keep saying he, but I would say his name. So, Yahya Jammeh decided to penetrate me, but before he did, he took out a needle from his pocket and he injected me on my arm. I’m not sure what it is, or what it was for. And unlike in the movies, when you’re injected you don’t just fall immediately, depending on what it is that has been injected in you. Yahya Jammeh did not want sex with me or pleasure with me. What he wanted to do was to hurt me. What he wanted to do was to teach me a lesson. What he wanted to do was to manifest his ego, just like many of us can’t believe that a girl can say no…… Someone like Yahya Jammeh and his position found it very disrespectful for a 19-year-old from not an elite background or not the daughter of a president, to somehow gather some kind of audacity to say no to him. That he is a man probably who hasn’t had so many nos. And my no wasn’t because of a sense of that I was better off. My no was just because I felt that it was wrong, and I felt that it wasn’t right. I was on the bed; the top part of my body was on the bed and from my waist down was dangling on the ground. Yahya Jammeh penetrated me after doing the face rubs on my face and talking all the things that probably would arouse him, and somehow my begging and my pleading, or maybe my “I am sorry,” made him feel better about what was happening. I said stop. I was saying stop. Please don’t. Stop. My nose was very clear, even as I pleaded and said that I was sorry. He wanted to see, and he said let’s see what is here as he pushed his penis into me. With a pillow right on the bed and my face smooshed into the pillow, I was trying to wiggle and, mind you, as all this was happening, I was hearing the Quranic recitations in the background. The Gammo was going on. The Imams were preaching outside. I could hear loud and clear, and so could he. The “Sukula” team was singing praises of the Quran and that was going on because loudspeakers were being used. So, it was loud, and you could hear it from the room as if we were part of the Gammo. Yahya Jammeh was sweating, and I don’t know why, but he was sweating a lot. My face smooshed into the bed, crying for help, when there was none………… the hardest part of this, is that, thinking, or imagining that anybody thinks that it is not true, because I feel, up to this day, every stretch of my muscle………. every stretch. When he penetrated me, he seemed to have been looking for something while his head was on my back as I was smooshed in the pillow and he was standing on the floor with the rest of my body down, I saw him peeking and looking for something. He sodomized me, an what that means is that he took his penis and put it into my anus instead of my vagina. That’s what sodomy is. My muscles were hurting, and, in that moment, it wasn’t like he even wanted to take long. It was so…. all just being hurtful…… all of it was just being hurtful the entire time, and once he was doing it, he was so comfortable with the fact that he has a great cover up…. that this will never come out, especially in detail, and that no one would believe this, and that he has a great cover of Imams reading the Quran in the background. Who would have thought that that was happening inside? I, however, fell unconscious at some point. I guess at this time, whatever was in my bloodstream he injected in me had gotten to me. Now, but before that, the voices started to fade away in my head. Even the screams that I was screaming, I could not hear my screams anymore, and I could not also hear most of the Quran recitation. It was all going in the background like a shadow voice until it faded away. And, I don’t know how long I was laying there. I don’t know what Yahya Jammeh did to me the whole period that I was laying there. What happened. But I did get up from that and felt very disoriented, like I had a very long nap…… like you slept the whole day kind of, and you wake up, and you’re feeling a bit sick because you slept a little too much…… that was the feeling that I was having. And I was dizzy, but before I lost consciousness, or whatever happened in that moment, I did see him grab the same leggings that I was wearing, that he pulled off, and went to the washroom. Now when I got up, there was a chair, a white chair in this room right next to the door and he was leaning back in the chair, in his shorts. And with no shirt on him, and he was just leaning back…… and this legging that I saw him take was somehow on the fan that was standing there. Or probably was not, but it was a black one, and it looked similar to my leggings…… So, when I got up, because I was moving around and then I got up, my tears were kind of dried out on my face. He told me to get out. I walked out of that door, he…… I don’t know…… to his Gammo, I guess, or wherever King Papa, who always, either holds my bag, or my phone, was there. But my bag and phone this time around, I didn’t get to give it to anyone to bring it in, because I was dragged in, so my bag was left on the chair where I was waiting. And this King Papa that you call Alieu, looked at me, and said that this is our president and we will do anything to protect him. That’s why I cannot forget his face on any picture and at any moment. I grabbed my stuff and left. Jimbee was right there at the door, again on here phone, pretending like nothing just didn’t happened. She went with me and didn’t say a word. I didn’t say anything all the way into the car, as we exited the waiting area, and the black car Landing was still there, waiting. I got into the car and Landing took me home. The entire trip to my home, Landing didn’t say a word to me, I didn’t say a word to Landing…. I was in the back of the car, leaning on the window of the car, staring after the moonlight, or whatever bright light was outside, through the dark window, because they were tinted glasses, and no one outside could see inside. But I could see outside, and I was leaning back there, and tears rolling down my eyes the whole time until we got home. And I was numb…. just numb. I wasn’t processing anything…… like I just watched a movie of some other person. We got home, Landing dropped me off and never said anything or asked me what was going on or why I was quiet, because at least when he picks me up sometimes, he will ask how you are, or how has it been. And then I got home, and my sister was the one who was awake, and she opened the main gate for me, and I came in. I was holding my shoes in my hand. I was not wearing them. She opened the door. She was very sleepy and then I walked into the room again. Now my mom is a light sleeper, so she heard the door and she opened her bedroom door and peeped through the drape and said, oh you’re back…… its late! She understood that it was a Gammo and that time was alright to come home. My mom was half asleep and she really did not look at me enough. She just tried to check who opened the door, and when she knew that it was me, and I was fine, she went back to her room. And I wasn’t also standing there to engaged her, because I was rushing to my room and her door was right there. So, I went into my room and I locked my door. Now the longest night of my life…… in that moment, I haven’t really processed anything, and I did not even understand what exactly happened. And I was saying to myself, this is the most powerful man in Gambia, who am I for anybody to listen to…… to believe to, and where do I say this and when I say, what am I expecting was going to happen. And also, I was in denial. I went into the washroom. I took my washcloth and I washed in the washroom for more than an hour……. Just washing and showering and washing. And my ears felt like… like you know……. when it is raining, and you block your ears with your two hands…. That noise that you hear…… everything was just blurry……like it was in another day, in another timeline. I went to my bed and I laid down and I was telling myself that this did not happen, this did not happen, it did not happen…… but that is what happened, on the night that Yahya Jammeh raped me. And that is how he did it.