Gambian Toufah Jaallow tells the story of how she survived rape by dictator

Gambia's Toufah Jallow is a name that resonates deep in Gambia because she is one of few women to have taken a stand against the sexual assaults in this small West African state.

Gambian Toufah Jaallow tells the story of how she survived rape by dictator

At the tender age of 18, she was awarded a scholarship to a university in a national talent contest for young women. In 2015, she fled Gambia fearing for her safety after Yahya Jammeh, a dictator, allegedly drugged her and raped it, angered that she turned down his marriage proposal.

She remained silent in Canada because she was afraid Jammeh would persecute her family in Gambia. She told The Associated Press that she was able to tell her story publicly after Jammeh's fall from power, despite Gambia’s silence about sexual assault.

She held a press conference in June 2019 to share her account via social networks and in a report on human rights. The nation was riveted. She also testified to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission months later.

Jallow now tells her story in detail through a memoir, "Toufah": The Woman That Inspires an African #MeToo Movement

"In June 2015 Yahya Jammeh (then the president of The Gambia), raped my. He has not been charged. He was never convicted. He believed he could get away with it and tried to erase my memory. I believed I would not speak of it and that I would be invisible. She writes that we were both wrong. "I am here, shining as the sunrise on the melanated coastline," she wrote. "I am Toufah Jallow. This is my story.

The book was co-written by Kim Pattaway and Jallow and describes Jallow's journey from being the granddaughter and daughter of women who pushed against the patriarchy of the country to the night of her alleged rape, her tensions, and the subsequent traumas and challenges.

Jallow stated that she hopes to be a role-model for those who have been sexually assaulted and to help them cope.

She said, "I wanted my life to be relatable to young girls so they see) that what (and) I did is possible (and) isn't seen as a miracle." It takes a normal girl, who grew up in The Gambia in a village with her mother and 20 siblings in a polygamous family to achieve this.

Jallow, a woman from humble ancestry, was attracted to a high-profile position by her scholarship. She attended many public events alongside Jammeh, and she became a well-known figure in the community. Jallow was tempted to Jammeh's private quarters by the president after she rejected his offer to marry her.

Jammeh has not reacted but his party denies everything.

Fearing for her and her family's safety, Jallow did not tell anyone in Gambia. She was aware of the hundreds of people who were arrested for questioning Jammeh.

Terrified, Jallow fled Gambia. To hide her identity, she wore a niqab (head to toe veil) so state agents wouldn’t recognize her. With the support of trusted allies, she made it to Senegal where she is now living.

Jallow was a victim of a cruel and long-lasting injustice that no one in Gambia had ever heard about. She was a refugee living in Canada and working odd jobs to pay her bills.

"For the longest... She said that she would never let it go. She was bothered by the statistics on sexual assault and how few people are being held responsible. She said that she has never felt more invisible during this period.

She said that sex and homosexuality are not allowed in Gambia. She explained to AP that there is no Fula word for rape. Instead, people use phrases such as "Somebody fell upon me."

Jammeh lost the elections and fled the country for 2017 Gambia opened the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in response to reports of killings and abuses that occurred during Jammeh's 22-year reign.

It was 2019 when Jallow spoke out about her assault. This sparked a revolution. When Jallow spoke, more than 50,000 people were on social media. The women marched with banners that said "#IAmToufah", and others shared their stories of rape.

Marion VolkmannBrandau, a woman's rights activist, stated that Jallow's decision to speak out was a "wind for change" in Gambia. She helped Jallow navigate the investigation into Gambia's sexual assault and led it.

She said, "There was this moment for support... women came out about rape and had a story to tell showed that they weren't invisible anymore." "Gambians also realized how widespread the problem was."

Volkmann-Brandau stated that this hope has been lost, and that the legal system must change to make sexual assault more serious.

Jallow started the Toufah Foundation to support survivors of sexual assault in Gambia. She hopes to create the first Gambia-based women's shelter.

Her name is used now to talk about rape in communities that were once too ashamed to speak out.

While she is studying to become a counselor for women- and children-victims in Canada, she travels to Gambia frequently. She is currently working on a documentary about survivors of sexual violence.

Jallow also said that Jammeh would return to Gambia if he did.

She said, "I feel too visible to be invisible anymore." "I have faced my worst fear... He has been physically beaten."

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