WYCKOFF, NJ (CBSNewYork) – As police in Wyckoff search for a sexual predator who attacked a woman Tuesday night, they are warning women to be on alert, saying, the best protection against being the next victim is the knowledge that it could be you.

“Be aware of this, protect yourself and be familiar with your surroundings and do what you can do always to keep yourself safe,” said Chief Benjamin Fox of Wyckoff P.D.

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Police said a 42-year-old woman was leaving the elegant Brick House Restaurant housed in an 1851 Colonial neatly landscaped with yellow and orange mums around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, when she was attacked in the parking lot.

“She was grabbed from behind by a male individual who pulled her hair, pulled her to the ground. She struck her head on the pavement and he then began to attempt to pull off her pants,” said Fox.

She kicked her attacker in the groin and was able to get away.

Police Chief Fox believes the woman may have narrowly escaped a sexual assault.

“Obviously you can draw a conclusion from someone attempting to pull off the woman’s pants what might have ultimately happened but it didn’t happen,” said Fox.

The woman had left the bar well before closing time but on this particular night she was the last customer.

Fox wants women to stay alert.

“Be aware of it, to keep yourself safe. Be aware of your surroundings,” Fox told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

Fox said the victim did not get a good look at her attacker — adding there were no witnesses, or surveillance video.

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The suspect is described as a white male, six-feet-tall. He was wearing blue jeans and blue shirt.

“I’m shocked to hear it, when did this happen?” Maria Polatz, who works in the area, told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

Charlie Avakian is a martial arts instructor in Bergen County. His studio has a program specifically designed for women who are looking to protect themselves from being the victim of a violent encounter like this one.

“Basic strikes, basically from anything from a kick to the groin to a kick to the shin,” said Avakian. “That’s the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how big someone is if you kick them in the groin they’re going to go down.”

As the victim in this case found out.

“I think, no matter what happens, when you watch things in the news, I think, ‘Well that’s a terrible thing,'” resident Jen Fox told CBS 2’s Jay Dow. “But there’s nothing that ever makes you think it’s gonna happen by you, no matter where they say it is, until it does.”

Restaurant owner Aldo Cascio says he’s already taken steps to help ensure the safety of his female customers.

“What I told my employees that when it’s one person left and she’s alone and she’s ready to go to go up to her and make sure she gets in her car and goes,” Cascio said.

Investigators suspect this may have been a crime of opportunity — all the more reason they say — for women walking alone at night to especially aware of their surroundings.

Anyone with any information is asked to call police at 201-891-2121.

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