Winnipeg police are warning the community about an attack on a middle-school-aged girl Monday morning in Fort Richmond.
The incident happened between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., when the girl was walking to school on Greencrest Avenue in the direction of Ulster Street.
Police said an unknown man approached the girl from behind and started dragging her. She was able to kick herself free and run home safely, while the man took off on foot.
The girl didn’t need any medical attention as a result of the attack. Police said they don’t have any details on the suspect’s motivation at this time.
“We just don’t have the evidence to suggest what this was. At this time it’s (considered) an assault,” Const. Dani McKinnon said during a press conference Wednesday.
The suspect is described as in his 20s or 30s and between five-feet-10-inches and six feet in height, with an average build.
He was wearing a dark hoodie, dark baggy jeans, a toque and a black COVID mask, and is described as having an overall unkempt or dirty appearance.
“We do believe that somebody may have inadvertently seen something, because we’ve provided the description and that’s really what we’re looking for,” McKinnon said.
“(That’s) not necessarily to say they witnessed the act because, god forbid they did, you would hope somebody would intervene or call the police and there weren’t any other phone calls made to police.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Winnipeg Police Service’s child investigations unit at 204-986-3296.
Pembina Trails School Division superintendent Ted Fransen told 680 CJOB the victim’s school has supports and guidance counsellors available to any student who should want them, while a letter sent home to families encouraged students to walk to and from school with a group of friends and be “hyper-aware” of their surroundings.
“It is a tough day. Whenever any one of our students is put in harm’s way it sends shivers up and down our spines,” Fransen said.
“I’m just relieved this particular student had the wherewithal to quickly report it to a trusted adult. And the police and school could jump into action.”
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection says these incidents are exceedingly rare, but director of education Noni Classen encouraged parents to have age-appropriate conversations about safety with their kids.
“The younger (kids) are, the less information they need to know around what’s happened or a situation that’s occurring because it’s too much for them, and it’s not their job to protect themselves. It’s an adult’s job to protect young children,” Classen said, adding a simple way to start the conversation is discussing the “buddy system.”
“You’re going to the park? Well you wouldn’t just walk to the park by yourself, you need to bring a buddy with you.”
In adolescence, Classen said to approach the conversation as a problem-solving exercise, as opposed to a fear-based discussion.
“You can have some scenarios, like here’s some situations, what would be some problem-solving ways to increase safety in this situation?
“Because then they’re using that thinking part of their brain, where it’s not really emotional. They’re not putting themselves in that situation.”
She added the CCCP has plenty of resources for parents of all ages on their website.