Suspect still at large following alleged sexual assault of 12-year-old girl in Victoria


WATCH: Police continue to search for suspect in an alleged sexual assault of 12-year-old girl at The Bay Centre Sunday. Isabelle Raghem reports. 

It’s a busy downtown shopping spot that’s even busier on weekends but police say a large crowd didn’t stop a sexual assault from taking place inside Sunday.

“Two girls were being followed by a man in The Bay Centre, the man sexually assaulted one of the girls and then fled,” says Cons. Matt Rutherford of Victoria Police.

VicPD are not saying exactly what happened but say the girl, who is just 12 years old, was not physically injured or taken to the hospital. It happened just after noon inside a store.

“He was following [the two girls] for some time and took advantage of when they were alone and there was no one else around,” added Rutherford.

Police say he then fled the building and was last seen running northbound on Douglas Street.

Investigators have released surveillance photos of the suspect who they say changed his appearance as he fled.

“If [anyone] witnessed this gentleman in the mall yesterday to call us because we’d like to track him down,” adds Rutherford.

Experts from the Victoria Child Abuse Centre say while it’s unusual for a sexual assault to occur in such a public place, it does happen.

“It could be very, very scary and very traumatic but I always say to my clients a moment of time doesn’t necessarily need to make your future,” says child and youth therapist Shawna Herlinveaux.

They suggest parents give their children a safety plan.

“Talking to kids as early as possible about how they can be safe at the community and at home and having the ability to talk to an adult when something like that happens is a really important skill,” says intake in victim services Mattie Walker.

They add scaring children with details about this incident isn’t necessary. Instead, they encourage parents to use it as an opportunity to ask questions.

“I know you go to the mall fairly often, how do you feel about going there? Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve felt uncomfortable?” adds Herlinveaux.

Police describe the suspect in Sunday’s incident as Caucausian or Aboriginal, 40-years-old with a medium build. While he was pictured wearing glasses and a camouflage toque during the incident they say he put on a grey hat shortly after.

If you have any information, call 911 or Victoria police 250-995-7654 .

Isabelle RaghemIsabelle Raghem

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