Although the majority of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, many are also committed by strangers.

In the last year, two men have been arrested and convicted in the deaths of two young Ottawa women.

In August 2003, 27-year-old Ardeth Wood was brutally murdered during an afternoon bike ride along an Ottawa pathway.

Her killer, Chris Myers, had already approached a number of women, asking for directions and the time - questions police say allow assailants to get close to those they are targeting.

"Those that reported in afterwards said he was so articulate, he was so polite. And, some said it made them feel uncomfortable because this guy was so nice and as he was speaking to them, he's moving in close," said Sgt. Cori Slaughter, who voluntarily runs a popular street-proofing course for women in the capital.

"He was going for number three - the physical. He was going to grab and drag, which is what happened."

Two years after Wood's death, 18-year-old Jennifer Teague went missing after leaving a late night shift at a Wendy's restaurant in Barrhaven. Her body was found 10 days later in a wooded area off Moodie Drive.

Her killer, Kevin Davis, pleaded guilty to the crime in January 2008 and told the court Teague wasn't a specific target the night she was murdered.

Murders, assaults have many worried

Their murders, as well as a recent string of assaults near Ottawa pathways, have many in the capital concerned about their safety.

Slaughter says some of the best advice she can give women is to never allow an assailant to take them to a second location. Among the things she teaches are self defense moves to escape an attacker, as well as assertive ways to talk to strangers.

"Our voices go up and we are trying to be helpful. God forbid, we're perceived as rude - we don't want that - and that's how we're trained," said Slaughter.

Importance of being assertive

Elsy David, who works to create safer environments for people living in the capital, says assertiveness is particularly important.

"A large majority of potentially dangerous situations can be de-escalated or avoided by using assertiveness and that's just verbal assertiveness - your body language," David told CTV Ottawa.

She says poorly lit areas are a big issue for many of her clients. Be it a parking lot at night, or isolated city pathways, David says surprisingly some men no longer feel safe in those areas either.

"We find a lot more men are coming out and saying, 'I'm a man and I don't use that pathway at certain times of the day,'" she said.

Know the law

While police say it's important to know how to protect yourself, they remind residents it's illegal to carry weapons, including guns, knives and pepper spray.

Experts say beyond the legality of carrying a weapon, during a struggle an assailant could turn the weapon against you.

"In a struggle, say it drops out of your hand. A man is much more quickly able to identify, 'Oh, that's a weapon' and go for it," said David.

She says everyday items, such as keys, credit cards or a pen, are the easiest things to use in order to create a distraction from a potential attacker.

"If you hit a relatively sensitive area like the hallow of the throat, the eye - not to be gross - those are things you might have to consider."

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins