Community groups aim to take back streets after sex assaults
Community groups hope to unite residents after a series of sexual assaults that have plagued Toronto neighbourhoods.
Published Friday, September 14, 2012 9:37PM EDT
Two Toronto community groups will rally together on Saturday in an effort to combat sexual assaults plaguing the Annex and surrounding neighbourhoods.
Nine women have come forward to report sexual assaults from similar suspects in the Kensington market and the Bloor-and-Christie-Streets area since July.
The two events aim to take back the streets of Toronto and create a safer environment for the community. The annual Take Back the Night rally organized by the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre will be held at the Masaryk Cowan Community Recreation Centre at 6 p.m.
The first-ever Take Back the Block events will act as after-parties to the rally at Bellevue Park in Kensington Market and Pitman Hall quad at Ryerson University, starting at 9 p.m. -- two locations that have been heavily affected by the ongoing assaults.
Ryerson campus security has warned of three sexual assault cases in late August and early September, one involving two females.
The campus also borders a string of sexual assaults at Yonge and Wellesley Streets and Gerrard and Parliament Streets. Police appealed to one suspect, Thomas Reardon, to turn himself in after his alleged assault of three women on Sept. 4.
“It gets scarier and scarier. Originally I was just puffed up and angry, saying, ‘You’re not going to stop me from waking around,’” said Heather Cromarty, a Take Back the Block organizer in an interview with CTV Toronto on Thursday.
“It makes me angry that I’m modifying my behaviour,” she said. “You’ve stopped me from living my life.”
Take Back the Block was based on a similar rally at Christie Pits Park on Sept. 3. Hundreds of men and women gathered to address the specific cases in the Bloor and Christie area.
The last report filed in that neighbourhood was on Wednesday for an incident on Aug. 28, said Constable Wendy Drummond in an interview with CTV Toronto on Thursday. The woman was not sexually assaulted but it was believed to be the same suspect linked to sexual assault cases in that area.
Police have sent out a public safety alert to the community. The woman’s actions, including loud screaming, reportedly caused him to run away before anything happened.
Police said the suspects in question differ in approach. The two women assaulted in Kensington were grabbed and pulled into a secluded area. The reports in the Bloor and Christie area claimed the suspect approached them from behind.
Arrests have not yet been made but police continue their investigations. An increased police presence has been added to the affected areas.
There have been no sexual assaults in that area through the month of September, confirmed Drummond.
“The question we have right now is, is this stuff happening more or is it getting reported more?” asked Cromarty. “It’s the not knowing that’s really scaring us.”
Drummond said it is largely to do with the number of people reporting sexual assaults.
“When we did the first couple of alerts we knew there were going to be more victims,” said Drummond. She said she recognizes the difficulty in reporting sexual assaults but once the alert went out she knew other victims would feel more comfortable.
Cromarty hopes this event, which aims to be inclusive to all community members, will encourage residents to get to know each other, and care about each other as a way of stopping sexual assaults.
The organizers continue to promote the events using social media and the Twitter hashtag #TBTB.