Hamilton women plan 'Take Back the Trails' hike after sexual assault on the Bruce Trail

Amanda Pocha, an avid runner is organizing an event for women to reclaim the Bruce Trail after Hamilton police say a woman was allegedly assaulted while running April 10.

An event is being planned for Friday in wake of a recent alleged sexual assault

Amanda Pocha is organizing the event taking place Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Participants are being asked to meet at the Chedoke parking lot and will hit the trails heading east toward Dundurn. (Submitted by Amanda Pocha)

This Friday women are banding together to reclaim the Bruce Trail as a safe place to be after a recent sexual assault on the trail sent one woman to hospital.

Amanda Pocha, an avid runner herself and ambassador for Happy Trails Racing, is organizing the event.

She's calling it "Take Back the Trails."

Pocha is uniting fellow active women in the community that just want to be outside and feel safe.

"As a woman, as a trail runner it's challenging because we are safer in numbers, but we don't always have the opportunity to run with someone —and you're always aware of everyone around you. As women I feel like we have to always be on alert," said Pocha. 

The event is being planned after Hamilton police say a woman who was jogging along the trail near the Dundurn Stairs was attacked by a man. 

'She's not alone'

Police say it happened on April 10 around 4 p.m. when the woman stopped after she heard someone calling out.

When she stopped, police say she was struck, then assaulted.

The woman was injured in the attack, but was treated at a hospital and then released.

"Obviously we don't know who this happened to, no victim should ever be named, but my goal in all of this is to let her know that she's not alone," said Pocha. 

"There's not a single person that I don't know as a woman that hasn't been victimised somehow. And knowing that you have support is the biggest thing."

On Friday, police released a composite image of the suspect they're searching for in connection to the sexual assault. Const. Lorraine Edwards told CBC News that investigators have gotten "multiple calls" and Crime Stoppers tips in recent days.

"There are lots of leads they can follow up with," she said. "They're still trying to sift through them all."

Police say the suspect is described as about 6 feet tall. He has short or shaved grey hair and facial hair and was wearing a red shirt T-shirt and black baseball cap at the time of the attack. 

Hamilton police have released this composite image of a suspect wanted in connection with a sexual assault on the Bruce Trail on March 10. (Hamilton Police Service)

'Overwhelmed by the response'

While police search for the alleged attacker, women are taking their own steps.

The event is scheduled for Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., starting purposely when last week's alleged incident took place, says Pocha. 

Participants are being asked to meet at the Chedoke parking lot and will hit the trails heading east towards Dundurn.

Pocha says she created the event Saturday and invited about 25 of her Facebook friends. 

As of Sunday evening, more than 130 people have said yes to going with another 700 plus posting as "interested" in going.

"I am completely overwhelmed by the response," she says.

According to the invitation, there will be two trail options depending on who shows up. Anyone, including males, are welcome to attend and show their support says Pocha. 


Laura Clementson is a journalist with CBC News. She can be reached at laura.clementson@cbc.ca. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraClementson.


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