roncesvalles attacks

Toronto neighbourhood bands together to protect against random attacker

Women in the Roncesvalles area are living in fear within their own usually quiet, safe and family-friendly neighbourhood after a number of attacks and attempted abductions in the area have allegedly taken place in recent days.

Toronto social media has been abuzz with those sharing their terrifying encounters and the stories of others, as well as tips on how to stay safe and other resources as the local community comes together to protect one another.

At least six incidents involving what police believe may be the same man have taken place between May 13 and July 28 in the city's west end near Howard Park and Roncesvalles Avenue, with varying reports that include attempted abduction with a car and multiple random, unprovoked physical assaults ranging from spitting and throwing drinks to punching. 

A suspect has been vaguely described as 25 to 40 years old, around 5'9" with a thin-to-medium build and black hair, but has been hard to identify due to his face mask. A gold-coloured SUV has also been linked to at least two of the alleged attempted abductions.

Toronto Police have since released security camera footage of the perpetrator of at least one of the assaults, but there have also been reports where multiple attackers were involved.

Residents have reached out to Mayor John Tory and Ward 4 Parkdale High Park Councillor Gord Perks to ask for a stronger response to the spate of incidents — which some are noting that media has seemed oddly slow to report on — but Perks said in a statement that he believes Division 11 police and the local Community Police Liaison Committee have a handle on the situation. 

Officers this week finally vowed to increase patrols and presence in the area, and are also now seeking the help of the public for any witnesses or further information.

But pending police action, local residents and community groups (such as the Trinity Bellwoods Flea Market) have already begun taking it upon themselves to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and alert one another of the threat, sharing PSAs and accounts across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Multiple individuals have even offered their services to escort women home if they are out walking alone, while others are organizing their own patrols of the area at night.

A group of volunteers has also organized under the banner "Westwatch" to provide transportation assistance and de-escalation if needed, while a community safety meeting was held in Sorauren Park on Wednesday for neighbours to share resources and discuss next steps.

The first woman who reported her attack has posted on social media about her appreciation of the community's support, saying that she is "incredibly touched" by the thousands of shares, responses and offers to help that she's received.

"It has occurred to me that in sharing my story (hoping to warn other women), now the assault doesn’t belong just to me. It belongs to all of us who care — for better and for worse," she wrote last Friday.

"Many of us will be more cautious individually, but we’ll also be more aware and supportive of each other. We’re sharing our stories and voicing things that need to be said and heard. And that’s power a community can harness."

I was assaulted by a male stranger Tuesday night. He ran up behind me, tried to jump me (but failed to surprise me), then attempted to punch me twice. I’m fine, physically. . What I’ve been thinking about the last 48 hours is all the women who’ve responded to my story. As of now, 1200+ people retweeted my post about this attack and I’ve heard from well over 100 people, mostly women. They’ve shared their support, their concern for me and the neighbourhood, asked how they can help, reviewed porch camera footage and most powerfully, shared their experiences of gender-based harassment and assault. Most of it local to Toronto, my home city and current location. I’m incredibly touched by the genuine concern and incredibly angry that it’s necessary. Talking about my experience brings up/enhances the fear (or at least caution) that *all* women carry around with us—an invisible backpack of past and potential trauma. Proven true, yet again. . It has occurred to me that in sharing my story (hoping to warn other women), now the assault doesn’t belong just to me. It belongs to all of us who care—for better and for worse. Many of us will be more cautious individually, but we’ll also be more aware and supportive of each other. We’re sharing our stories and voicing things that need to be said and heard. And that’s power a community can harness.

A post shared by Abigail Gamble (@abigailgamble) on

Unfortunately, though the recent events are certainly horrifying, for many they serve as just another example of the looming threat of harassment and violence that women in particular face on a daily basis for simply existing in public, as well as the hypervigilance they need to maintain to keep themselves safe.

The TPS investigation into what's going on in and around Roncey Village is still ongoing.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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