New York (CNN) -- She escaped her native Guinea under difficult circumstances and made a new life in New York with her 15-year-old daughter. She didn't have many employment options and was grateful for her job at the plush Sofitel hotel.
At least she could put a roof over her daughter's head and fill her belly.
She was instructed a few days ago to clean the suite on the 28th floor where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was staying.
Her life changed when she entered the room that day.
Not many details are known publicly about the woman who says Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and a major player in French politics, sexually assaulted her in that hotel suite.
Police allege Strauss-Kahn assaulted the woman Saturday and chased her down the hotel hallway before heading off to board a Paris-bound flight. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers said he is innocent.
This account of her experience is based on CNN interviews with her attorney, Jeffery Shapiro, and a friend, Blake Diallo:
"She was afraid for her life," Shapiro said. "She was being physically and sexually assaulted. And her whole idea was to get out of there and get away from this man, which, thank God, she was successful in doing."
She held on to her belief in American ideals. This was a place where the law did not differentiate between the rich and poor, between the powerful and those who had nothing. It was different from her native country.
She hopes those ideals will not fail her now as she, a hotel maid, accuses a man who controls an enormous global purse, a man who was among the leading contenders to become the president of France.
She found out the the identity of the man she accused the day after she went to the police, Shapiro told NBC's "Today" show. She did know at the time that she would become part of a story watched around the world.
She came from a world in West Africa where retribution and violence were the norm, a fact that escalated her fear when she returned to her apartment after talking with the police to find it teeming with journalists.
After days of tumult, she is living in a safe place with her daughter.
She was terrified during and after the assault.
Nonetheless, she cooperated with authorities, putting herself in a position she perceives as dangerous.
So she picked Strauss-Kahn out of a lineup at a New York police station. She is ready to testify before a grand jury or do whatever else the district attorney's office requires of her to prosecute the man who turned her world upside down.
She is still young, only 32. People think of her as intelligent and dignified -- someone who is sensitive to the needs of others and devoted wholly to her daughter.
"She does not have extended family here, so she has a very small world, essentially the two of them," Shapiro told CNN.
She is aware that many people will say many things about her now. About her race. About her religion -- she is a Muslim.
She knows that some will say she was a willing partner, a suggestion she says is untrue.
"There wasn't any aspect of her encounter which in any way could be construed as consensual of anything other than physical or sexual assault," Shapiro said.
"She's in the midst of this furor," he said. "She needs counsel. ... And she needs help getting her life back together. She needs help dealing with the system in terms of how to live and how to survive."
She does not know yet what the consequences of this case will be. Will she still be able to find work after this? What will become of her and, more importantly, her daughter?
All she can do now is recover. Slowly.
CNN's Adam Reiss and Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report.