‘Shouldn’t be afraid’: Women’s running group starts up after alleged sexual assault on Harte Trail

A popular Winnipeg recreational path has a new spotlight on safety.

It comes after two disturbing encounters in September and a violent one just over a week ago along the Harte Trail in Charleswood.

Harte Trail Women’s Running Group is a place for women to find a running buddy or connect online.

Kathleen Cook started the group after she said she realized the trail may not be safe to run alone after the unsettling events this fall.

“I was angry first of all, because we shouldn’t have to watch over are shoulder. We shouldn’t have to worry.  This is our trail and we shouldn’t be afraid to use it,” said Cook on Sunday.

Runner Andrea Wicha agrees some of the same reasons that make the trail appealing being in nature, away from vehicles, being around trees, allows space for people to hide.

Wicha said being with other women on the trail adds comfort and safety, but would still like run on her own.

“Because it’s my time. I don’t plug anything in. I have no music. It’s just nature, wonderful time to not think about anything,” she said.

Winnipeg police Const. Jay Murray told CTV News not all crime is preventable but trail users can minimize their risk.

“You’re always better with numbers. Run with another person or a group,” said Murray.

“Wear bright colours, if you can, don’t run in a secluded area or when it’s dark out.”

Safety in numbers is one of the big motivators behind Cook starting the group.

“I think when something does happen we have a collective responsibility to come together as a community and say this is not what we will tolerate,” said Cook.

The group is also planning a few organized regular runs in an effort to make enjoying the Harte Trail as safe as possible.

 

ENCOUNTERS ON HARTE TRAIL

Winnipeg police said Sept. 10 around 6 p.m. near Pepperloaf Crescent, a suspicious man tried to hug a woman. Another woman reported seeing the same man expose himself.

Police said Sunday the 70-year-old suspect has been identified, was dealing with some mental health issues and is no longer in Canada.

Then on Oct. 26, police said a woman in her 40s had a violent encounter.

They said she heard footsteps running at her. When she turned around, she saw a man sprinting towards her trying to open his pants, knocked him to the ground, fought back before another person showed up, and the man took off.

Police said Arnez Goodman, an 18-year-old Winnipeg was arrested and charged with sexual assault, a charge not proven in court.