By Vivian Moreau
A young woman attacked by a masked assailant in Whistler in January wants to know if he will strike again.
“I just wonder to myself, ‘okay it’s calmed down now, is he going to do it again?’” asked the 23-year-old.
The woman, a retail clerk who has lived in Whistler since last June, was arriving home from a concert by bus to her Eva Lake Road apartment about 3 a.m. on Jan. 23 when she was attacked by a man She had departed the bus and was walking through the apartment complex parking lot when she was attacked from behind. He twisted her arm behind her, pushed her to the ground, covered her mouth with one hand and with the other tried to remove her clothes. The slim 5’9 woman fought back, kicking the assailant and screaming when his hand slipped from her face. The assailant then fled. The incident occurred just steps from her apartment building door.
Two other assaults occurred over the next three weeks and local police say although there are similarities between the three cases there are no suspects.
All three of the assailants were unknown to the women. The assailant in the first case was described as about 5’10 with blond, bushy eyebrows, the second and third assailant had brown hair with the latter being about 6’1.
Although police officers have several times revisited the young woman attacked in January, she questions whether enough is being done to find the men involved in the three incidents.
Inspector Norm McPhail of Sea to Sky Regional Police Services said similarities and differences of the three cases have been analysed by RCMP behavioural experts in Vancouver.
McPhail said the incidents are unusual in that the assailant was unknown to all three women.
“In Whistler’s case we don’t have random acts of assault like this,” McPhail said, adding that there have been reports over the years of cases involving suspicion of GHB, the so-called date rape drug.
Although composite drawings of the second assailant were released to media, RCMP say they do not intend to post notices around the resort about the incidents.
“Media advisories allow for us to notify the general public,” RCMP spokesperson Ann-Marie Gallop said, “in doing so the perpetrator knows that we are actively investigating.”
But a Vancouver rape counselling centre says the RCMP are taking the wrong tact in advising women to not travel alone through Whistler.
Daisy Kler of Vancouver Rape Relief says the message should be aimed at the attacker, not the victim.
“Women know how to keep themselves safe. They do every day - they are vigilant about creating safety for themselves and it’s a misguided focus on women,” Kler said, adding that a competent, thorough investigation should include releasing a composite drawing of the attacker and focus on telling details of the attack rather than simply warning women to be cautious.
McPhail said composite drawings were released following the second attack and warnings do get the message out.
“Of course we want to put all the pressure we can on the offender,” McPhail said. “We don’t know who the offender is at this point in time, but we’re going to find out who it is and we’re putting all the resources we can into finding out who that is.”
The young woman attacked in January now travels with pepper spray and says she is more watchful about men around her.
“You hear about it but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” she said. “But in reality it can.”