After driving off road, he assaulted her multiple times, sending her in and out of consciousness. Afterward, the rapist cleverly called her school to say he was an uncle and she was sick that day. Then he drove to her home while Sandberg's mother was at work, and locked her in a bedroom closet.
"He put furniture against the closet door and in the process stole everything, including my mother's blank checks and heirloom jewelry and some furniture," she said.
It was October, and the rapist picked up a pink Halloween mask from the movie "Scream" and put it on his face.
"By the time he opened the door, I had managed to get the beanie off my head and he dragged me into my mother's room and assaulted me again on her bed and then dragged me into the bathroom tub. He turned on the shower and I was bleeding and he said, 'I will come and kill you if you ever tell anyone,' and left."
Sandberg dragged herself to a phone and called 911. She had so many cut wounds that she needed blood transfusions and had two black eyes for a month. Sandberg also had surgery on her genitals to repair the damage caused by the broken bottles.
The man stalked the family for months afterward and was not identified for three years. She also endured a humiliating two-year trial. As a result, today Sandberg cannot watch horror movies or look at masks and white vans give her flashbacks.
"The recovery has been long and I could not have read this book in high school," said Sandberg. "I had anxiety, depression and suicide attempts, but eventually I started to adjust to some sort of normal life," she said.
"I didn't receive justice in the court system, and I was an angry person," she said. "In my victim statement, I said they were no better than the criminals themselves."
Some call Lisbeth the "Hannibal Lecter of crime literature," but Sandberg said she identifies with that anger and a society that pays little attention to the trauma of survivors.
"I felt closest to Lisbeth Salander," she said. "She shows the impact of recovery can be lifelong and shape everything we do in the future and relationships. It's her mode of survival. She had no choice."
"She has a hesitation toward males and relates better with females," said Sandberg. "She is an angry person and even those who she cares about, she still is hesitant with them. And she need alone time."
Sandberg began her activism as a freshman at Georgetown University right after her assailant's conviction in 2004, speaking out a student rallies and advocating for campus policies.
Today Sandberg is a speaker for RAINN and serves as a volunteer on its rape hotline. She admits she has a spot of jealousy for the way in which Salander seeks revenge.
"Most survivors can't do that without legal repercussions," said Sandberg. "I don't think I would have had that feeling if I had had justice in the courtroom.
"When you have a fall-out of support and society doesn't understand where you are coming from and there's victim blaming, you feel really angry and fiercely independent and lash out."
Sandberg said the film, especially the "in your face" rape scene, is an eye opener giving view no choice but to see what the real experience is like.
One male friend previewed "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" with Sandberg and later became "enthralled in the idea of activism," she said.