NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A woman told CBS2 Friday evening about a horrific incident in which a man tried to strangle her sneaked up behind a woman on the Upper West Side.

The search continued for the man who attacked the woman around 4:55 a.m. Sunday on 78th Street, between Broadway and West End Avenue.

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Police said a 23-year-old woman was walking home from work near the Collegiate School when a man came up behind her, put his arm around her neck, his hand over her mouth and tried to choke her.

She was able to fight him off and the suspect fled, police said.

She suffered a bloody nose and pain to her neck and refused medical attention.

CBS2’s Alice Gainer talked exclusively with the woman, who did not want her name used. The woman is very slender and not very big, and she was carrying quite a few bags at the time.

But she said she fought back – even wrestling on the ground with her assailant.

“A guy put me in a chokehold; hand over my mouth so I couldn’t scream,” she said.

The woman said the man sneaked up on her when she was least expecting it.

“I heard somebody coming behind me, but I thought maybe it was a jogger, because I see joggers out at that time of morning,” she said.

The woman was walking to the subway heading to work when the man grabbed her.

“I was just pulling the arm that was around my throat just trying not to pass out. So it was pretty much survival mode,” she said. “We struggled; fell to the ground, and the next thing, he let go of me and then ran towards Broadway.”

The woman ran back home with all of her belongings. She said he never reached for her purse.

“The intention I knew he had was to black me out, and that was it,” she said. “If he was going to rob me — if it was going to be anything else – I have no idea, because his obvious intention was to pass me out first.”

The victim was able to run back to her apartment and call police.

Dave Ordini teaches Krav Maga – a self-defense technique used by the Israeli Army. He told CBS2’s Jessica Schneider that women should not feel helpless – even when an attacker comes.

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“As long as they can breathe, they can fight,” she said.

Ordini taught Schneider how to throw her weight toward her knee and knock him to the ground.

“That has nothing to do with strength, that’s just leverage,” he said. “And then I can just get out of here. That’s your decision.”

Police described the assailant as being 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 10 inches tall with a shaved head and a medium build. They have released surveillance video of the suspect.

News of the attack has left many women in the area on edge.

“It does make me nervous, definitely,” one woman told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes.

“It seems incredible that something like that would happen here,” another woman told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.

Rebecca Centeno lives on the block and says she’s surprised this happened here.

“I always look around, I always try to look behind me when I’m walking but I think it’s a good reminder to me that I need to be vigilant about doing that, even if I live in a safe neighborhood,” she said.

And many residents said realistically, crime just happens in the city.

“I think these things are always surprising, and yet, we live in New York City and this kind of thing happens,” said Molly Heron.

“It’s very frightening, and it confirmed my feeling I should walk on broad busy streets,” said Cindy Frankel.

As for the victim, she thinks the attacker underestimated her because of her size, and credits her work as a baker with giving her the physical strength to fight back.

“Thankfully, my job probably gave me the strength in my arms, because I pick up 50-pound bags of flour and sugar three days a week,” she said.

The victim said her boyfriend is now taking her to work. As for injuries, she said she suffered the bloody nose only because he nose ring got moved around in the struggle.

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The surveillance video is fairly grainy, so police are relying on help from the public.
Anyone with information was asked to call the NYPD Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS, visit nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.