The Risks of Sleeping While Female: Brutal Rape and Attempted Murder

She was in her locked car near the Stanford University campus.

Anna (she/her)


You get a false sense of safety when the street is brightly lit and there are lots of other cars around. Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Trigger warning: I mention some details of the violent attack, rape, carjacking, and attempted murder.

I still remember my horror when I read the news article back in 2010. A woman was beaten, carjacked, raped, and almost murdered after a stranger broke into her car while she was napping. Once I learned more details, I realized it could have been me.

It all started off like a typical Friday night. A young woman in her late 20s, Asian American like me, had gone out with friends after a long week. She met them at a bar in Palo Alto, California — one of the major tech hubs in Silicon Valley and home to Stanford University.

Palo Alto is a wealthy college town. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the median income from 2009–2015 was $121,465 with a population of a population of 64,409 in 2010. The last thing anyone expects is to hear of a woman being violently attacked by a stranger while visiting the affluent small city. That’s the kind of thing that happens in big cities.

The woman left the bar sometime after 1 am, when she had been awake over 20 hours already. A Palo Alto police officer pulled her over at 1:30 am, thinking she might be drunk because she had swerved while trying to set her GPS. He let her go after determining through a field test that she was not drunk.

After getting lost due to construction on the Stanford campus, she realized she was too tired to drive home. So she parked just off campus on El Camino Real near Serra St. This area is right next to Stanford’s IM South field, for those familiar with the area.

El Camino Real is a major thoroughfare adjacent to the campus (with two to three lanes in each direction). There are almost always lots of cars parked on this street (possibly students who don’t want to pay for campus parking?) and it’s brightly lit. She locked the doors and fell asleep.

Sometime later, she was awakened by the sound of glass breaking and landing on her. A man had shattered the window. Then he dragged her from the car and she “was thrown to the ground and punched in the head six or seven times”…



Anna (she/her)

9X Top Writer. Proud grad of CA public schools. Committed to justice & leadership development. Wife & mom of 2 girls & 2 big dogs. Love to eat almost everything