Police said the Santa Monica College student was walking to her car in the 1300 block of Pearl Street about 10 p.m. Wednesday when a man, wearing what appeared to be a black wetsuit, ran up behind her.
He hit her, forced her to the ground and then sexually assaulted her, according to investigators. The suspect then ran from the scene.
"That's scary," said SMC student Kathy Alvarez. "We always walk alone. You just never know what's going on."
"If it can happen here it can happen anywhere," said SMC student Santos Ozoemena. "This place is really, extremely safe."
The man was described as white, 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, 140 to 150 pounds with blonde short, curly hair.
"A very brazen attack," said Santa Monica Police Sgt. Martin Fine. "It's not something that happens very often. It is a residential neighborhood off the campus."
The attack comes as a shock to residents who say they feel safe in their quiet neighborhood.
"I'm really surprised," said resident Lisa Riley. "I always feel that Santa Monica is a safe neighborhood. I've never had any problems."
Authorities are asking people in the area to keep a look out for anyone matching the description and also to take extra precaution when walking outside after dark.
"I'm just going to have to be more careful and not try to walk at night," said SMC student Wendy Alvarez. "And not try to stay too late."
Anyone with information is asked to call Santa Monica police at 310-458-8495.