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'I've Been Attacked,' Cried Alleged Victim of IMF Chief

By DNAinfo Staff on May 17, 2011 7:08am

By Olivia Scheck, Ben Fractenberg and Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Staff

MIDTOWN — "I've been attacked."

Those were the horrifying words the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn inside a Midtown hotel room told her brother over the phone Saturday, during a tear-filled conversation that left him visibly agitated days later.

"She told me that somebody did something very bad to her," said the 43-year-old brother, a restaurant owner in Harlem, whose name is being witheld by DNAinfo.

"No family should have to go through this," he added, calling his 32-year-old younger sister "a hardworking woman who's just a victim."

The man declined to discuss his sister's current whereabouts, but said "Where she is, she's very secure. ...She is safe now."

Neighbors described the Bronx woman as a quiet, devout Muslim, single mom and recent West African immigrant who spends long days at her job cleaning up after the rich and powerful as a maid at one of Midtown's most glamorous hotels.

Prosecutors said the woman was sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn inside his room at the Sofitel hotel on West 44th Street Saturday afternoon, when he allegedly jumped out of his bathroom and grabbed her after she came to clean his room, police said.

Prosecutors allege Strauss-Kahn grabbed her breasts and slammed the door shut so she couldn't escape and then "attempted to forcibly rape her. When he was unsuccessful, he forced her to perform oral sex on him," they said.

The woman's description of the incident, her "outcries to multiple witnesses immediately after the incident," and her willingness to submit to a sexual assault exam that had results that were "consistent" with her story led prosecutors to demand Strauss-Kahn be held without bail.

It is still unclear whether the woman knew her alleged attacker was one of the world’s most powerful men — the so-called "great seducer," who had a special "VIP" pass issued by the UN to help him bypass airport lines, and up until this weekend had been considered a leading contender for the French presidency.

Strauss-Kahn is now being held without bail at Rikers jail pending his next court appearance on Friday.

Neighbors who live near the alleged victim in her working-class neighborhood in the Bronx described her as soft-spoken and demure and said she keeps mostly to herself.

"She's very shy, she's very quiet," said Mark Gangadeen, head of the tenants' association at the six-story brick building where the woman lives with her teenage daughter.

Gangadeen, 47, said the woman splits her time between home and work, and said he often sees the woman's daughter waiting outside for her mom to get home.

Neighbors described the woman as a practicing Muslim who wears a head scarf.

Neighbor Assetou Kamara, 33, originally from Mali, said she has accompanied the woman to prayers at a nearby mosque.

Co-workers at the Sofitel, who spoke to DNAinfo on the condition of anonymity for fear of risking their jobs, said the housekeeping staff was shaken by the incident, which was the first they could recollect at the hotel.

"They're scared. You never know what's going on, who's going to be the next crazy person that comes here," said one employee, who added that most of the housekeepers are first-generation immigrants from places like West Africa and China.

Others staffers remained tight-lipped, refusing to address reporters who had gathered at the hotel or giving very clipped answers as their supervisors monitored the exit.

"It's a very delicate situation," one said.

Sofitel did not respond to calls for comment.

"Sometimes, if you're a powerful man, you authorize yourself to do things you shouldn't," said Frank Gauthier, 41, a tourist visiting from Paris, as he passed by the Sofitel Monday.

"I think that this guy is too powerful," he said.

Strauss-Kahn did not enter a plea as he was arraigned on charges of felony charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, attempted sexual abuse, and misdemeanor charges of unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching, among other charges.

He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on the top felony count alone, and could face additional prison time on the other charges.

The alleged victim's brother said he has faith in the Manhattan District Attorney's office to help put his sister's case right.

"I want him to see justice," the man said. "I trust this American justice system very well."