The incident happened on Ward Place in South Orange around 10:15 a.m. on February 22, and the victim spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News.
Cecilia Cranko was on the third floor of her residence when she heard noises coming from her second floor. When she went downstairs, she discovered a man standing outside her children's room. The kids, ages 12 and 9, were not home at the time.
"I was actually working from home upstairs in my bedroom, which is on the third floor," she said. "I heard someone ring the bell, and I didn't pay any attention to it. About a half hour later, I heard someone in the house, and I thought it was my au pair coming to pick up my kids' stuff. So I went down, and that's when I was confronted with someone."
Cranko tells Eyewitness News that the suspect then chased her back to the third floor, where she attempted to lock herself in her room.
"He just ran for me," she said. "I tried to get upstairs to my room, to lock the door, but he caught me before that, and he just attacked me. He tried to pull my clothes off, and I screamed and kicked."
She said the man punched her repeatedly in the head and about the body, before she had the sense to call out to her phone for help.
"I screamed 'Siri, call 911,' and that kind of frightened him," she said. "He got up and ran."
Police believe he broke in through a rear sliding door and was preparing to steal items, which were lined up near the doorway.
"I was trying to (fight back)," Cranko said. " It was just a big shock to go through that."
The suspect is described as a black male in his 30s, approximately 5-foot-9 to 6-feet tall, unshaven and last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.
"I hope someone sees him and recognizes the person," Cranko said. "It was very hard, and I had a lot of bruises...My whole face was black and blue."
She has been traumatized since the incident, struggling to feel safe in her own home.
"I haven't slept through the night," she said. "I wake up with nightmares. It's been very scary. If I hear a noise, I jump up. It's been terrible."
Still, she had nothing but praise for the officers who responded and the support she received from her community.
"The police have been amazing," she said. "They've called me every day, and they've tried to keep me informed of what's going on. When I was at the hospital, I texted our town mayor, and she came right over and sat with me the rest of the time there. It was very comforting to see the neighborhood come together, but it's very scary."
The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Lieutenant Brian McGuire with the South Orange Police Department at (973) 763-3000, extension 7788.
Watch more of A.J. Ross's exclusive interview: