Second woman claims she too was sexually assaulted on OC Transpo bus
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Friday, March 15, 2013 5:09PM EDT
Another Ottawa woman has come forward to say she too was sexually assaulted on an OC Transpo bus.
Ottawa police have charged a man in connection with several attacks. But 24-year-old Venessa Workman worries there may be other attackers and many other victims. It was CTV Ottawa’s story last Friday about a teenager assaulted on a bus that prompted Workman to come forward.
Now a growing chorus of voices is urging women and other passengers to speak up to stop the violence.
Workman says she was on the 95 to Orleans on November 1st. The bus was crowded and she was sitting on a back seat when a man in his 30's squeezed in beside her.
"He was slightly touching my leg,” recalls Workman. “I didn't think anything of it at first, the bus was crowded. She moved a bit and he apologized. Then he touched her again. She told him to stop.
“Then he reached under and pushed completely under my butt and grabbed my private area.” Workman yelled and ran off the bus at the next stop at the St. Laurent Centre. She says he followed her.
“I'm from a small town,” says Workman, “this doesn't happen in my small town.” Workman called police when she got home. They took a report. She heard nothing she says until our story Friday night with 18-year-old Kaleigh Langdon who says she was sexually assaulted on the same bus route a little over a month ago.
“He stuck his hand in between my legs,” recalls Langdon of the assault, “and started rubbing.” She told CTV news that she turned around and “slapped him in the face.” Langdon also filed a police report.
On Tuesday, Ottawa police announced they had charged a man with 5 counts of sexual assault against women on OC Transpo buses between November 22, 2012 and January 15, 2013. Police confirm the same man, 34-year-old Racil Hilan of Ottawa had already been facing 3 charges of sexual assault on women and teen girls riding transit stemming from incidents occurring between December 8, 2011 and February 14, 2012. Police had issued a public warning in December of 2011 regarding a man inappropriately touching women on OC Transpo buses. The earlier charges are currently before the courts. Hilan appeared in an Ottawa courtroom on the latest charges and was released on bail under house arrest and under the condition that he not travel by bus until he appears in court again on this matter. His lawyer, Norman Boxall saysthere's strong evidence to prove his client is innocent.
"It would mean it's not him so the inference would mean it's someone else,” Boxall said.
The director of the local chapter of Hollaback, Julie Lalonde, says harassment is common on the buses. Hollaback is aimed at ending harassment in public spaces.
"We've had women come forward and tell me horror stories of people exposing themselves, people licking them,” says Lalonde. She says bystanders must take responsibility for what happens around them.
“If you witness something on the bus, say something, either to that person, check in with them, talk to the driver, file your own report, but all of this stuff is happening in plain sight of other people and they're not doing anything and that needs to stop.”
Venessa Workman’s advice?
“Scream, because somebody's going to notice you screaming, if not the bus driver himself.”
OC Transpo provided this comment to CTV Ottawa”
“The safety of our customers is our number one priority. Any incident is one too many; we take every incident seriously and we encourage our passengers to report any suspicious activity they see to OC Transpo or the Ottawa Police Service. As per the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ottawa Police Services Board, Ottawa Police are notified to investigate occurrences within OC Transpo assets and properties related to sexual offences and is responsible for ongoing investigations. With more than 100 million trips taken by our passengers every year, OC Transpo’s transit service is a very safe system.” Daniel Villeneuve, Acting General Manager, Transit Services.