Toronto police have arrested a 15-year-old in connection to 14 sexual assaults in the Bloor-Christie neighbourhood after female police officers posed as potential victims, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said Monday.
At a bail hearing that afternoon, Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky ordered the youth be held in custody until trial.
Police arrested the youth at 11 p.m. on Saturday after a woman was assault while walking in the Roxton Road and Bloor Street West area, said police. The youth is charged with 14 counts of sexual assault and two counts of criminal harassment. He cannot be named because he is a young offender.
Police would not say if the last woman assaulted was a police officer, but said one officer was assaulted during the course of the investigation.
“We have women in our organization who put themselves in harm’s way, who went out into that community and put themselves at risk, knowing that if they were successful in their mission they would also be a victim of an assault,” said Blair.
Blair said he wouldn’t characterize the investigation technique as a “sting,” but said female officers were on the streets where they could be potential victims. He would not say when officers began using this tactic.
Staff Insp. Mary Lee Metcalfe said 14 assaults occurred between Aug. 16 and Oct. 20 in the area between Barton Avenue, Ossington Avenue, Palmerston Avenue and College Street. Ten assaults took place in August, followed by an apparent lull until the Thanksgiving weekend. In all cases, the perpetrator approached the women from behind, sexually assaulted them, then fled the scene.
Metcalfe thanked the victims for working with police as well as the community for spearheading local rallies and marches that raised awareness among the community.
Suspect’s age isn’t entirely unusual: Prof
Lise Gotell, chair of the University of Alberta’s Women’s Studies program and a specialist sexual assault research, said the severity charges against the 15-year-old are “shocking” even though rates of sexual assault are high at his age.
The highest rates of sex offender are among boys aged 12 to 17 years, but it is rare for a young offender would assault serially assault strangers, said Gotell.
“The threat of a serial sex offender in that neighbourhood has held such a sway, and has caused such a great deal of uncertainty,” she said. “The idea that these could have been perpetrated by a 15-year-old is shocking.”
Because of his age, his name is not being reported publicly. While she acknowledges many people would like to see his name published as part of seeing justice done, research shows survivors’ foremost need is society to treat them with respect and understand the effects their experience has had, said Gotell.
Instead, society should reexamine some of the social norms that contribute to sexual assaults, she said. “Sexual aggression and ‘scoring with women’ continues to be celebrated as something that marks you as a man,” she said. “We need to think about what it means to be a good man.”