Saint John police are investigating after a woman who they say was involved in street work was assaulted, thrown into the back of a vehicle, driven to a secluded area and sexually assaulted.
According to a police media release, the incident "appears to be targeted toward women engaged in street work."
Julie Dingwell, executive director of Avenue B and chair of the Sex Trade Action Committee, said she knows at least five or six other women who say they've been attacked by the same man.
"We're very worried because it seems to be an escalation of behaviour," Dingwell said.
Dingwell said the series of assaults is affecting women in general despite their occupation.
"He may think he's targeting street workers, but it's not the case," said Dingwell. "We've had women who haven't been working on the street report being approached by this guy."
Saint John police are urging all people, especially women, not to walk alone at night and be aware of their surroundings.
But Dingwell said that approach is not enough and is not the answer.
"Women have always known — we've always got to be looking, one eye over our shoulder, to make sure that we're OK," said Dingwell.
"Women have always known that we're more vulnerable, but the women that are on the street are exceptionally vulnerable [to poverty, drug addiction and mental health].
"Our shelters are full, there's not a lot of places for people to go. And so we need to really be thinking about what we can do to keep all women safe and be thinking long and hard about what brings us to these points."
Police say the suspect is a white man in his late 30s, has an athletic build, is naturally bald and speaks aggressively. Dingwell says her reports state he often wears a ball cap and is very strong.
The vehicle is described as an older sedan with newer silver or grey paint.
The incident was reported to police on Sept. 29. Saint John Police and the Sex Trade Action Committee are asking the public's help in identifying the suspect.
"We're definitely asking people if you know anything, make an anonymous call, do something about it, but don't allow this to continue if you know something," said Dingwell. "That's just wrong."
Anyone with information in relation to this investigation, is asked to contact 1-506-648-3333, or if you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or who is affected by these reports. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If your situation is urgent, please contact emergency services in your area.