Students rally to 'Take Back the Night' from sexual assault suspects

After the eighth reported incident linked to a sexual assault suspect in North Austin, women all over the city are taking precautions.

Police believe the suspect started targeting women east of 183 and has since moved north,  going after women in stairwells, parking lots and other places that are not crowded.

In most cases the man grabs women from behind and when they scream he runs away.

Wednesday at Austin Community College, students are holding an event to talk about the prevalence of sexual assault and ways to prevent an attack.

"Because I don't feel safe. I don't think really at any time outside any woman feels safe completely," said ACC Sophomore Katrina Walters.

The feeling that she could become a victim of sexual assault is magnified after learning about several attacks linked to one suspect in north Austin, five of them during the day.

"It definitely makes you much more conscientious, so when you go walking places or go to different locations you definitely are a little bit more alerted," said ACC Student Life Coordinator Vanessa Malo.

During the "Take Back the Night" event on campus Wednesday, students talked about ways to protect themselves and how to support others who have become victims.

"It's a really big problem in our society right now. About one in four women or one in six men are affected by sexual assault," said Roney Washington, another student life coordinator.

"I never walk alone. I am always making sure that I am with someone else or I have actually an app on my phone that's called 'Safe Trec' that is like $2 a month," Walters said.

Although this is the eighth attack since December, it is the first in about two months.
Police said that's not unusual.

"It is typical that they do go dormant  for a while and then these incidents occur again, but for reasons we don't know," said Officer Destiny Winston with the Austin Police Department.

Malo said having a suspect on the loose won't affect how she lives her life.

"Our innate instinct is to be fearful and completely change our routines and not do things the way we used to, but I don't think that's a good way to live. I think we really just need to be aware that these are the types of things that could potentially occur, to be more conscientious when we go places," Malo said.

Washington said although the sexual assaults being investigated in North Austin are concerning, just as concerning are those going unreported.

"It happens during the day, it happens with family members, it happens in all kinds of situations," said Washington.

Police said the suspect is a white or Hispanic man in his mid 20s about 5'8" and 155 lbs.
He has a skinny build with short brown hair and dark eyes and typically wears a partial mask on his face.

He was last seen wearing light colored jeans, a dark grey short sleeved shirt and carrying a grey long sleeved or light-weight sweatshirt.

Police said they will release a sketch of the suspect once they are finished interviewing witnesses.

Follow Jennifer Kendall on Facebook and Twitter

Read APD investigating sexual assault believed linked to other N. Austin assault cases

Read Austin sexual assault interactive map, timeline, safety information

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