Victim’s screams scared away masked attacker during weekend sexual assault


A security guard escorts a student through the trails surrounding Sheridan College’s Trafalgar Campus following two sexual assaults on Saturday afternoon. There have been four such attacks around campus since July.


Published on October 7th, 2013
Updated on October 9th, 2013 @ 5:35pm

One of the victims in last weekend’s pair of sexual assaults that occurred near the wooded trails at Trafalgar Campus is calling for more emergency boxes to be installed.

The young woman, whose anonymity  has been guaranteed, contacted The Sheridan Sun on Monday and agreed to a sitdown outside the Sun newsroom.

Halton Regional Police believe a sexual predator may be lurking around campus following two attacks on female students over the weekend. Police are once again asking for the public’s assistance in identifying a possible suspect.

While police haven’t definitively said the two incidents on Saturday, which occurred five minutes apart, are connected to two assaults over the summer, officers say one suspect may be responsible for all four crimes.

“There are some pretty distinct similarities. While we are investigating all possibilities, there is reason to believe that one person may be responsible,” said Detective Chris Newcombe of the Child and Sexual Assault Unit.

In each case a woman was approached from behind and touched inappropriately.

At 1:40 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 5, a man with a covered face approached a woman near the edge of the trail behind the Athletic Centre at Trafalgar Campus and touched her inappropriately. The suspect fled on foot after the victim screamed.

About five minutes later, another woman was attacked on the paths deeper in the woods. The suspect in both incidents is described as being 5- foot-7 and wearing dark clothing, and fled when met with his intended victim’s cries for help. According to police, both attacks occurred on school property. By Saturday evening, campus was littered with photocopied signs warning students of the most recent attacks and instructing them to walk in pairs while avoiding the wooded areas around the school.

The victim said there needs to be a light or emergency button somewhere along the paths, “If there was one there I probably would have pushed it.”

According to police, both attacks occurred on school property.

“I think it’s absolutely awful. As a girl, I can’t walk home without feeling unsafe”

By Saturday evening, campus was littered with photocopied signs warning students of the most recent attacks and instructing them to walk in pairs while avoiding the wooded areas around the school.

The summer attacks occurred five weeks apart.

At 2:30 a.m. on July 16 a 27-year-old woman was attacked while walking through the Morrison Valley Ravine, located between White Oaks Blvd. and Lambeth Rd. The suspect in that case was described as light-skinned, aged 20-23, clean-shaven, with short dark brown or black hair and a slim build. 

A 21-year-old woman was attacked while walking on the paths behind Trafalgar Campus on Aug. 23 at 10 a.m. The suspect in that case was described as white, with blond hair, possibly sporting facial hair and an average build. He wore a dark blue plaid jacket and sunglasses.

Paper from The Sheridan Sun archives (1979) shows similarities.

Paper from The Sheridan Sun archives (1979) shows similarities.

“We ask everyone to be aware and cautious while on campus, and to take advantage of the school’s Safewalk program,” said Michael Burjaw, Sheridan’s director of security, parking and emergency preparedness.

While speaking to the Sheridan Sun last week, Burjaw said that in response to the July and August attacks, the college has been employing bicycles and are testing the use of a golf cart to help their security officers better patrol campus and the wooded paths surrounding the college.

Despite those and other campus safety initiatives, such as the campus’ safewalk program, the attacks continue.

“I think it’s absolutely awful. As a girl, I can’t walk home without feeling unsafe,” said Julia Marcello, a third-year BAA Photography student.

Safewalk provides concerned students with a male and female escort to anywhere on campus, up to the roads surrounding it. In all four cases, according to the hours displayed on the Safewalk section of the Sheridan Student Union’s webpage, the incidents all occurred at times during which the program is not offered. However, 24-hour escorts are available through the security desk.

According to Burjaw, extra guards will be patrolling campus in light of the most recent attacks.

Safety on the trails surrounding Trafalgar Campus has been an issue as far back as the 1970s, and the area has earned the nickname among students as “rape woods”. The Sheridan Sun carried a front page story in November, 1979, citing that year’s tally as four reported rapes, two reported attempted rapes, four incidents of indecent assaults and “numerous reports of indecent exposure.”

What follows is a Q & A with the Sheridan student who was landscape painting for a class assignment when attacked:

Sun: So take us through it. You’re an athlete, you were running?

A: No, I was actually painting, this morning I was running. But I am an athlete. I was landscape painting for, like, four hours before it happened. So I was just sitting down, lots of people passed me.”

Sun: And where was this exactly?

A: It was behind, I should have brought my painting, I could show you, but it was behind the school, behind athletic building —in the wooded area there. I wasn’t too sure what was on the other side, but I was told it was a high school. So it’s in between the high school, and there is a little path there and a creek, and I was up from the creek.

Sun: By the soccer field up there?

A: Yeah, by the field, I was facing it, but I couldn’t quite see it. It’s quite treed in there, so. So that’s where I was sitting. It’s quite a drop to the water though, so the guy, as he attacked me, I was kind of slipping down the hill.

Sun: He came up from behind? Could you hear somebody coming up behind you?

A: Only when he got pretty close to me and I could see him out of the corner of my eye, and then I kinda turned and he, I was only about a metre and a half from the path, so he just kind of came from underneath the trees and attacked me.

Sun: So what happened, did you fight back? You look like you’re strong.

A: Surprised myself. Stronger than I thought I was. He put his hand over my face. I have kind of, it’s going away now, but I have a scratch on my nose. And then he stuck his other hand into my pants, the back of my pants, and then I ripped his hand from my face and started screaming, and then he just kind of ran away.

Sun: And then what was your next step?

A: I immediately picked up my phone and phoned my boyfriend. And, my painting stuff was everywhere. My painting was good. I collected my stuff and just booked it out of there, because I wasn’t sure if he was gonna come back with a weapon or something, so I just kind of ran.

Sun: What was going through your mind at the time?

A: My first thought once he put his hand over my mouth was, I’m gonna scream, what is he gonna pull out of his pocket? That was my first though, if he has a weapon I’m absolutely screwed, but I’m gonna scream anyway. So I did, and then he ran, thank God.

Sun: After you called your boyfriend then did you report it?

A: Well I called my mom and left a message at her house and then called the police from there.

Sun: Was campus security involved before that?

A: No, I didn’t actually come to the school. I was going to phone them, but it filtered through anyway because I got an email about it. Apparently there was another girl as well.

Sun: Would you be able to identify him?

A: He was completely masked, he had one of those winter masks that people wear that have the eye-holes…

Sun: Like a balaclava?

A: Yeah like that, except no holes, it was just complete black. And he was wearing mitts, but they were like mini mitts, like you would buy at the dollar store.

Sun: Were you aware of the previous attacks in July and August?

A: No. Not those ones. Although I had gotten emails last year or the year before, like be aware of the woods behind the school or by the school, whatever. It just never occurred to me that it would happen during the day, in broad daylight on a weekend.

Sun: Has the event changed your view of the college?

A: A little bit. Mainly because I thought Oakville was a very safe area and full of people who are wealthier.

According to campus security, two information sessions with Halton Regional Police will be held at Trafalgar Campus during the next week. Details were unavailable at press time. Further information will be provided as it becomes available

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