Reclaiming a Penticton neighbourhood that has been marred as the site of a horrific attack is what about 200 people did for the community and the 22-year-old female survivor on Saturday.
A community walk called Strength in Numbers led people down to Ellis Street and Dave’s Second Hand Store, the location where a woman was bound to a bed and brutally assaulted for over 12 hours on the long weekend while her two-year-old son was with her. Her alleged attacker, David Wesley Bobbitt, was arrested last week near Osoyoos after being on the run for four days.
“I know I am not the only one who felt uncomfortable walking down that block of Ellis Street since this happened. The next time you walk down Ellis Street remember how it felt when we all walked there together,” said Reasha Wolfe, Penticton and area Women’s Centre advocacy outreach co-ordinator.
“As a community we are aching to support the survivor and family. We might not know what to say or what to do, but as a community we are aching to express our love and our sorrow that any one of us would have to endure such a living nightmare. We are so sorry that we didn’t know and didn’t stop it somehow.”
In the span of nine days Penticton RCMP arrested a man on charges of a parent/guardian procuring a child under the age of 18 for prohibited sexual activity and living on the avails of prostitution — with RCMP expected to lay more charges on local Johns — arrested and charged Bobbitt with attempted murder with possibly more charges forthcoming, and arrested convicted sex offender Ronald Teneycke in Okanagan Falls on charges of sexual assault, forcible confinement and failure to comply with a probation order.
“It certainly feels like an alarming time. Right now there is a real call to action between the general public as well as anti-violence organizations that it’s time we need to speak up and start talking about this. This particular week has definitely been very impactful in terms of sexual assaults and how people as a community are grieving and traumatized by that,” said Lisa Needoba, South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society agency co-ordinator.
Needoba said anyone wanting to talk privately with a counsellor, or if they want support in providing information to the police, can contact SOVAS. Community events like Saturday’s are important, said Needoba, to start the communication on how to make Penticton a safer community. She said there are many women in this community who may have been in Dave’s Second Hand Store recently and are thinking they could have easily been the victim.
“I think it is really shocking when you think that could have been me, and I think there is a lot of that going on right now. That is part of the purpose of holding a community event, to give people the opportunity to recognize that we can somehow pull together right now and give each other a place to feel safe together. It also allows us to air some of the hurt that is going on,” said Needoba.
Pulling together is what the community has done for the young woman assaulted at Dave’s Second Hand Store. It is estimated over $30,000 has been raised for the woman and her child to help pay for living costs as she is not expected to be able to work for awhile. A Facebook group, ‘Support For Penticton Hostage Survivors,’ has been set up for the community to convey positive messages to the woman and as a hub to let people know how to donate. Besides monetary donations, there also have been quilts for the survivor’s toddler, Freeride Boardshop donated sunglasses and a local store donated a cell phone to the woman, as both of those items were destroyed during the incident, Kondolas furniture donated a bed for the toddler and other businesses have assisted in different ways.
A trust fund for the Penticton family is also now set up at TD Canada Trust. To make a donation to the victims you can go to any TD Canada Trust and deposit it into account #2776419115. If you would like to donate via cheque, make it payable to Crystal Sylvester and make sure you put the account number on it.
Over the weekend the building that Bobbitt had rented to run his store was vandalized. RCMP remind the public that they could face criminal charges for vandalism if caught.