Zanzibar has been trending on social media for the past few days. This comes after a Twitter user from Nigeria shared what she described as the most traumatic experience of her life. Her 23rd birthday celebration, travelling solo to Tanzania, turned into a nightmare.
*This story is not for sensitive readers. It reports scenes of attempted sexual assault.
In a Twitter thread, the young woman detailed the incident where she was almost sexually assaulted at a Zanzibar hotel in April last year.
She arrived at the Warere Beach hotel in Nungwi Zanzibar on the 16 of April 2021 where she had booked six-nights’ accommodation. “I was welcomed by the staff and they showed me my room which had a pool and sea view. Now, this looked like heaven to me and I can remember being so excited as this was going to be my dream birthday holiday,” she said.
A few friends and family called to wish her a happy birthday before she went to bed. She said a few hours into her sleep, she felt a strange hand touching her breast and initially thought she was dreaming as she knew she was in a hotel room with doors locked. “Some few minutes afterwards, I started to feel my hands stroking someone’s penis. At this moment, I opened my eyes to confirm if it was actually a dream or if I was in real danger.
“Low and behold, it wasn’t a dream. There was a naked man lying on my bed and touching me at 2am in my hotel room. He started calling me baby and then I became scared because the room was dark as I had switched off the lights before I went to bed. Now, I was extremely scared.”
She said she was scared as she didn’t know who this was and why he was in her room. “A lot of things were going through my head at the same time. Who is this ? Does he have a weapon? Will I get raped and killed on my birthday in a strange land?”
“I was crying profusely now and needed to find a quick way to distract him so I started begging him not to rape me but he didn’t understand English as he kept on speaking Swahili to me. I then lied to him that I have HIV and he’d need to get a condom before sleeping with me.
“He didn’t understand a word I said but [when] he heard HIV, he paused for a while. I saw that he reacted to the word ‘HIV’ so I kept on saying it whilst crying profusely at this point.”
The man left the room to look for a condom and that’s what saved her as she managed to escape and get help from fellow travellers she befriended during the day. She was encouraged to open a case with the police and to her surprise, they weren’t helpful. Instead, they threatened they’d not help her if she didn’t delete the videos and pictures she took as evidence. “I took more because this was the only weapon I had against them. I started to google Nigerian embassies in Tanzania. I called all of them but no one answered me,” she said.
“I left Tanzania a broken woman. The security man and the kitchen staff still walk freely, the hotel kept operating their business as usual but I became a shadow of myself. I’m still in therapy as I still suffer from the PTSD of that incident.”
The hotel has since responded confirming that the victim was indeed a guest in their hotel last year. “We tried our best to support her as soon as we learned of the accusations. We immediately brought her to the police and offered her support. The case was brought before Government authorities in April 2021 when it occurred. The police report indicated that this was a personal case, and not negligence on the part of Warere.”
They said their website was hacked, after the matter went public. “Simultaneously, we were inundated by a massive release of defamatory reviews and messages through many different social media platforms regarding accusations of sexual assault at our property. Within 3 hours we received over 4,000 negative reviews on Google from people who had never stayed at our hotel.”
What’s shocking is that the response to this victim’s experience has been matched with similar incidents around the world, another tweep shared: The Zanzibar story hits home, I remember how in India I woke up to a hotel male staff member staring at me while I was sleeping.”
5 safety tips for women travelling solo:
Also read: Women’s self-defence in Cape Town
1. Hotels across the globe need to look and improve their safety protocols to incorporate women who are traveling solo
2. Register with your country’s embassy
3. Let someone you trust track your location/phone
4. Stay online and your phone must always be charged
5. Befriend fellow travellers
6. Once your room door is lock, insert a key block or turn the key around to ensure no one is able to push int out with another key
7. Ensure your are familiar with the hotel’s safety protocols
8. Have a female hotel employee accompany you to your room