Margaret Wardlow was just 13 when she was bound and raped inside her family's Sacramento home in 1977.
She opened up Wednesday after officials announced they had solved the case of the Golden State Killer, a man believed to be her attacker.
She now lives in San Diego and is opening up about her night of terror, and her life after the assault.
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“I knew what he wanted,” Wardlow told NBC News. “I knew what he was there for, he was there to frighten me and scare me and I wasn’t going to give it to him.
“I just wasn’t going to let him have that power over me,” she said. “And he's never defined who I am for what he did to me."
She said after the attacker left the home, a neighbor responded to her mother's screams and they called law enforcement authorities.
Joseph DeAngelo, 72, was accused Wednesday of being the Golden State Killer who terrorized suburban neighborhoods in a spate of brutal rapes and slayings in the 1970s and `80s before leaving a cold trail that baffled investigators for decades.
He was charged with eight counts of murder in three counties after being linked to the crimes through his DNA. Authorities said he was responsible for a dozen slayings and some 50 rapes and that other charges could be filed.
Most of the crimes, predominantly sex assaults but also two slayings, occurred in the three years he was an Auburn police officer in the Sierra foothills outside Sacramento.
Wardlow was called by a retired detective the night before the announcement with the news of the arrest.
"Disbelief," she said. "I'm just so happy to see this day."
"This is the greatest day ever."
She said she is thrilled for the women she calls her "sister survivors."
Before she was attacked, Wardlow said she read everything she could about the suspect to look for clues as to why he attacked women. Afterward, she grew depressed he hadn't been caught.
She recalled school sessions and town hall meetings in the Sacramento area discussing the emboldened rapist who would bait the police with phone calls, warning them he would soon strike again.
Wardlow said she and her mother moved to Dana Point more than three years after the attack.
In August 1980, Keith and Patrice Harrington were beaten to death in their Dana Point home. Their killings were tied to the Golden State Killer.
"This was him. He was right around the corner from me less than a mile from my home," she said.
Wardlow said if she could speak to DeAngelo, she would ask if he was in Dana Point because he knew she was living there.
She would like to ask him, "was it coincidental you were in Dana Point or were you looking for me," she said.