ROGERS PARK — When a man approached her as she was walking home late at night earlier this month, Claire thought he was going to ask for a cigarette.
But when he groped her and forced her into a car, the woman realized her life could be in danger before she was able to escape.
"My emotions were shut down," said Claire, recounting how she how she felt as she lay in the back seat of the unfamiliar car. "It was survival instincts. It didn't feel like it was happening to me. It was surreal."
Now the woman, who asked that her full name not be used, has taken to the Web to warn others about the attack that she said took place about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 19 in the 1800 block of Morse Avenue in Rogers Park.
"I called everyone I knew and tried to get the word out," the 23-year-old said. She said she wants people "just to be aware."
Police said they are continuing to investigate the case but have no suspects. She said they told her they could now investigate it on more serious charges after she persisted in getting them to resume their investigation.
Claire said she was walking home from a birthday party at a friend's house nearby when the man approached her from behind.
He grabbed her and groped her under her clothes, she said.
Meanwhile, she said, an accomplice driving a dark-colored four-door sedan pulled up to the curb.
"I kept pushing him away," she said of the first man. "I said, 'No, no, no — I don't want this.'"
She said she was then shoved into the back seat of the car.
Then the man — who she described as possibly Hispanic and not much taller than she is, at 5-foot-5 — closed the door and walked around the front of the car to get into the passenger seat.
Before the car could drive away, Claire said she was able to open the door and run to the sidewalk.
The car sped off westbound on Morse Avenue. She called police, and several squad cars responded within three minutes.
Police drove her to her aunt and uncle's home in Andersonville.
She said she was unharmed other than her hands feeling sore the next day from fighting off the suspect and clawing "at his face."
Rogers Park Police District Cmdr. James Roussell said the investigation is ongoing, but no suspects were in custody as of late last week. The incident initially was filed as a simple assault, according to a police report.
"We're reaching out to the victim," said a district police sergeant at a community policing meeting Thursday night.
After her initial contact with police, Claire said she called the Police Department several times but hadn't heard back until Friday.
In that call, a detective told her that the case was being reassigned to a field detective, she said. He told her the case initially had been suspended and was not being actively investigated due to a lack of evidence, she said.
In a police report obtained by DNAinfo.com Chicago, there was no mention of her claim that the assailant groped her under her clothes. It also stated she was smoking and walking with the offender before being attacked, which Claire said was not true.
The detective told her Friday that based on what she told him, the case could be updated to criminal sexual abuse, a felony.
The incident took place a month after a 50-year-old woman was raped under the L tracks at the Morse Avenue stop on Dec. 19.
Soon after, police arrested James Shorty, 18, of Downstate Momence, in connection with the assault. He was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping.
Bernard Garbo, the CAPS beat facilitator for the area, said there was a similar incident nearby about a year ago. Although a car wasn't involved, two men approached a woman on the sidewalk and began to attack her.
That woman also managed to escape after screaming for help, he said.
Claire, who moved to Rogers Park from Georgia to pursue a career in theater, said she never thought something like that would happen to her.
She said she had been drinking at the party — a few beers and a mixed drink — but "wasn't impaired." She admitted, however, the alcohol might have diminished her awareness of her surroundings that night.
Claire said she bought pepper spray the day after she was attacked and carries it with her now, keeping a tight grasp on it in her pocket when she walks around.
She said now she would absolutely be "taking a cab in those situations" rather than walking alone in the dark.
While she didn't feel fearful at first, she said, it finally sank in days after the incident.
"When out walking somewhere, a car would drive past," she said, "and the emotion would wash over me."
Now, she wants other women to be more careful — a lesson she said she learned the hard way.
"I've challenged myself to have a more heightened awareness," she said.