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Vancouver locals warn women in Gastown area of sexual assault

"The man stalked her before attacking her." 
A Vancouverite is warning women in the Gastown area about a sexual assault that took place over the weekend. 

A Vancouverite is warning women in the Gastown area about a sexual assault that took place over the weekend. 

Redditor dannyb8181 took to the social media platform Sunday (March 28) night to inform women in the Vancouver neighbourhood about a sexual assault that took place the previous day at 9 a.m. in the alley between the No5 Orange nightclub and 168 Powell Street. "Be careful," they write.

The concerned local also shared an image of a note that was posted in their building that explains a woman was sexually assaulted in an alley on her way to work.

The note reads: "The man stalked her before attacking her." 

Vancouver police Sgt. Steve Addison tells Vancouver Is Awesome that police are investigating an assault that occurred around 9 a.m. on March 27 in a lane near Main and Powell streets.

"We are examining the details of the offence to assess whether it could be connected to other incidents. However, at this time it appears isolated. No arrests have been made," he explains. 

VPD says that the suspect appears to be an Indigenous man in his 30s, about five foot six, with a medium to heavy build, black hair, and a goatee. He was wearing a purple and grey baseball hat, a black hoodie and dark jeans.

Gastown Guardians

Vancouver local Graham Williams tells V.I.A. he's started a block watch group and applied for a grant to start a walking buddy program. Right now, the group is unofficially called the "Gastown Guardians."

The group plans to "Carry a kit, help those in need" and "make sure that no one is at risk on our streets."

"I live in a little building at what has become a pretty populated space on Hastings. Over the past year there have been dozens of events, from someone in our building being bear sprayed to a guy who followed a delivery driver in and then wouldn’t let anyone in the building leave," explains Williams.

"Outside we’ve seen dozens of incidents; an older man chased into traffic and hit by a car, a man’s encampment surrounded by flammable tar (a few dogs in our building got covered along with some residents - including me… that was two hours in the shower along with googling “what gets tar off”), and countless drug poisoning accidents and deaths.

"The stalking issues and the sex assault are the most recent. People in our building have a small community chat; Angie in our building suggested being available to walk with each other if it’s feeling unsafe outside."

Right now, the idea is to have Gastown Guardians available in pairs--so that no one has to be alone. 

Williams adds that he already walks the neighbourhood a few times a week with a naloxone kit in hand. 

Why it’s so hard for women to legally defend themselves against their attackers

It can start off seemingly benign. The feeling that someone is watching you a little too closely or happens to be walking in your direction after dark. 

But for many women in Vancouver and across Canada, terrifying and potentially violent situations arise unexpectedly and escalate quickly. 

This month, Jamie Coutts was followed for 40 minutes by a man in the Tinseltown area. After making several loops around the block to try and get him to stop, she turned her camera on "selfie mode" to record the encounter. 

But Coutts' story is not an anomaly. In fact, numerous women responded to the story by saying they were followed by the same man or other men in the city

Now, many women are voicing concerns about how they can legally defend themselves in a violent situation. Despite the law, several women tell V.I.A. they do carry pepper spray; a few of them carry knives, too.