Sexual Assault: Dark Days In Dakar

Dakar, Senegal
Source: Unsplash

The journey to Dakar from Bamako had taken 48 hours instead of the 36 Google maps informed us. A lot had happened on the way; our car broke down in the middle of the road twice, we had to chase after our bus across the border from Mali into Senegal in the scorching heat of the day after kneeling down to beg an obnoxious police officer who’d seized our documents because we didn’t have the bribe he demanded.

Dakar was the ‘Promised Land’ and we could not wait to see it. We surfed the net for a good apartment deal, found one that fit into our budget and soon we were in the apartment that’d be home to us for the next couple of weeks.  We all settled in and our host proved to be the best anyone could have gotten anywhere. He gave us a mighty good discount, gave us an extra room for free and took us out every other night for fish and beer with his friends.

Azeem and I discussed his niceness a few times, wondering if the people in Dakar are just naturally overly nice or if he was fattening us for the kill. We analyzed the whole town and the peacefulness of it, the spirit of love that seemed to flow very freely and concluded he was just naturally nice and got more comfortable. Welcome home, or so we thought. The apartment was amazing, it had a balcony that overlooks the street. The kind you wear a robe and sit in while you work, sip coffee and eat cut-up fruits from a fancy little bowl.  And with a pretty fast WiFi, it sure couldn’t get any better than this.

It was like any other morning, I walked into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee, today was going to be the day I started working on my eBook and website. I was so excited I was giddy from it so the coffee was more to calm my unrest than to keep me awake.  I was just setting the kettle on the fire when I heard Youu close his door. In Senegal, the coffee culture is strong, almost as strong as the incense culture. Every corner has a coffee vendor leaving the streets filled with either the smell of coffee or incense.

“Bonjour Youu! You sleep well?”
I called out from the kitchen. He walked in smiling,  as usual.

“Bonjour Lily. I sleep well. You okay?”

I answered him in the little pieces of french I’d picked up along the way as he reached for his own cup. Nothing unusual, just a man trying to make coffee.
He moved closer to me, It’s a small kitchen and I was standing next to the cooker so I assumed he was reaching to get some water for his coffee but he leaned in for a hug. Strange, but not unusual so I hugged him and pulled away after what seemed like an eternity. He reeked of beer, I assumed it must been from the night before and I thought “maybe he’s still hungover from yesterday”
Azeem was in his room, door wide open so I didn’t feel scared. Seyi was also somewhere in the house so I had no cause for alarm. Until he moved to stand in front of me, blocking my access to the kitchen door and of course the only exit, and from the water I was reaching for.

“You are a nice girl”
He said in his broken english.

“Thank you” with a little smile to cover up the anxiety that had started to brew, I turned away from his face, the smell of beer oozing from his breath was going to suffocate me to death. That was when he grabbed my arms and attempted to pull me in to himself. Confusion amidst loads of other feelings enveloped me.
“Exactly what is Youu doing?”
Voices in my head started an instant debate.

He held me with one hand and then ran the other hand down my left side, over my bum,  and down my left thigh.

“You a very nice girl. You the best. And I like you very much”
and then he leaned in for a kiss.

“Thank you”
I said hastily and tried to pull away from his grip. But I couldn’t. He’s quite a strong man.

A little wiggling, a little laughing, I tried to play it cool, but of course overly cautious, I started to tell him how grateful we are for his niceness and how he’s been the best host we’ve ever met until he eventually, slowly, let me loose off of his grasp.

“You go close Azeem’s door” He muttered from underneath his stinky breath.
“Me, You, we go in my room to have nice time”. His smile was like the backdrop for a photoshoot where the devil himself was the model.
I was horrified, to say the least. I’d been sexually assaulted before but this will be the first time in a strange land so far away from home. A land where I can barely communicate with the people. I knew I had to be diplomatic in handling this. “We all could be poisoned and murdered in the middle of the night, and no single soul would know about it” my thoughts ran wild, back and forth like rodeo.

I mumbled something I’m sure he didn’t understand, stylishly pushed him to one side away from the kitchen door and I fled into the room, to Azeem. We talked about it as a group but I didn’t give details into what had really just transpired with our very nice host.
We all waved it off as a “Drunken mistake” and I made it a point to never be around him by myself again at any point.

It’s impossible to always see what’s coming especially as we lived in the same house, especially when Seyi had left for The Gambia and it was just Azeem and I left with our supposed wonderful host.

He tried it again, and this time, Azeem and I agreed it was time to leave.

I was probably never going to talk about it, but after I read Toke’s journal on how she was sexually assaulted by her taxi driver last night. And after I heard that Busola Dakolo’s case got thrown out of the court, I decided  to put it out here.

This act had shadowed all the excitement I felt on getting to Dakar and I couldn’t write, or do any serious productive work.

I’m grateful it didn’t go beyond that. But it’s sickening and my heart is back in shambles. To think that one of big reasons I got on the road for; I thought that getting far away from the things that had bruised me would help heal the wounds but that isn’t going to be such a plan after all, especially now that I am starting to meet these things again, on the road, even though I wasn’t a lone traveler.

It makes one wonder, is anywhere really safe for women?

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