August 26, 2019

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Seeking help, hiding out

Man says he was sexually assaulted by a woman — but claims no one takes him seriously

A well-groomed man in his 60s sneaks in and out of his Winnipeg apartment building's back door, and hides out at a downtown shopping centre most of the day. He's done nothing wrong; he says he's trying to stay safe.

George Murray says he was sexually assaulted in January by a female tenant who's been stalking and harassing him ever since — and no one will take him seriously.

Murray reported the woman's alleged behaviour to Winnipeg police, who told him to avoid her, and to Manitoba Housing's liaison for his Osborne Village building. The female building manager made a joke about it "to lighten the mood," he said.

He wonders if age or sex discrimination is the reason behind the lax response: "If I did it to her, I would be in jail right now."

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A well-groomed man in his 60s sneaks in and out of his Winnipeg apartment building's back door, and hides out at a downtown shopping centre most of the day. He's done nothing wrong; he says he's trying to stay safe.

George Murray says he was sexually assaulted in January by a female tenant who's been stalking and harassing him ever since — and no one will take him seriously.

Murray reported the woman's alleged behaviour to Winnipeg police, who told him to avoid her, and to Manitoba Housing's liaison for his Osborne Village building. The female building manager made a joke about it "to lighten the mood," he said.

He wonders if age or sex discrimination is the reason behind the lax response: "If I did it to her, I would be in jail right now."

The woman, also in her 60s, moved into Murray's building in November 2018, and, at that time, used a wheelchair.

Murray, who was taking the bus to visit his wife of 32 years in hospital every day, carried the neighbour's groceries to her third-floor suite a couple of times. They were neighbourly but never romantic, he said.

So when they were seated in her apartment and she leaned over and grabbed his crotch on Jan. 19, he was "shocked."

"I just got up quick," the widower said. "It surprised me."

She tried to pull down his pants as he was leaving, he said. In the ensuing days, he tried avoiding her but said she wouldn't leave him alone. "I was getting calls 30 to 40 times a day."

Her told her via text messages he wasn't interested; she sent salacious responses. She put cash and gift cards (which he's kept in a sealed plastic bag as proof) and letters that are at times pleading and menacing under his door.

George Murray says he's being stalked by a woman who sexually assaulted him.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

George Murray says he's being stalked by a woman who sexually assaulted him.

"One night, she stood outside my door for three hours and knocked."

He learned the woman was monitoring his movements on the security camera at the building's entrance, so he started using the back door and spending his days at a downtown mall.

On Feb. 15, he applied for a protection order — but it was denied by a justice of the peace.

"She said she couldn't really grant the order because there wasn't a direct threat against my life," Murray said.

He fears his neighbour will accost him again and, because he's a man, he won't be believed.

Sexual assault stats

Only five per cent of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians over the age of 15 are reported to police.

In Manitoba, eight per cent of police-reported violent crime victims were victims of sexual offences, 2016 statistics show. Sexual offences were much more prevalent among child and youth victims.

Only five per cent of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians over the age of 15 are reported to police.

In Manitoba, eight per cent of police-reported violent crime victims were victims of sexual offences, 2016 statistics show. Sexual offences were much more prevalent among child and youth victims.

Among victims of all ages, rates of police-reported sexual assault were highest among youth ages 16 to 17, while sexual violations against children were highest among youth ages 12 to 15.

Females represent a much larger proportion of victims of sexual offences (90 per cent) and of some other violent offences such as criminal harassment (77 per cent) and indecent and harassing communications (75 per cent).

Male and female victims of police-reported sexual offences differed notably by age.

Overall, among female victims of all sexual offencesm, 55 per cent were either children under the age of 12 (16 per cent) or youth ages 12 to 17 (39 per cent).

Compared to females, a much larger proportion (75 per cent) of male victims of police-reported sexual offences were either children (44 per cent) or youth (31 per cent). Despite this, sexual offences were still less common among young male children and youth, representing nine per cent of victims (compared to 38 per cent for their female counterparts).

— sources: Statistics Canada; 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization

"If I try to defend myself, I'm in trouble," said Murray, who was at his wits' end when a friend suggested he go public with his story. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else."

Neither Winnipeg police nor Manitoba Housing nor Klinic nor Prevent Elder Abuse Manitoba responded to a request for comment Tuesday.

At the University of Manitoba's Centre on Aging, director Michelle Porter said Murray could be experiencing "ageism."

"Certainly, if this man is being treated differently based on his age, then this would be ageism," Porter said. "The same would be true of the accused perpetrator, although each of these instances would be considered to be different forms of ageism."

Two neighbours say they've seen and heard the woman knocking at Murray's door for more than an hour at a time, and sometimes more than once a day.

Cash and gift cards were slipped under George Murray's door by a neighbour who he says sexually assaulted him.

CAROL SANDERS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Cash and gift cards were slipped under George Murray's door by a neighbour who he says sexually assaulted him.

"I told her, 'He's either not home or doesn't want to talk to you,'" said a gruff-voiced man who didn't want to be identified.

"I had a problem with her at first," said the neighbour who's lived there five years. He said he stopped opening his door to her because she asked for cigarettes and would bring him meals he didn't want.

"She was here every day," until he told her to leave him alone, he said, adding he's seen the woman at Murray's door — "sometimes three to four times a day" — and caught her with her ear pressed to the door.

Murray's alleged stalker has been seen lingering in front of his apartment and "putting things under his door," said a female neighbour who didn't want to be identified.

"If she takes a disliking to you, she's not in her right mind," she said, adding residents are all on fixed incomes and social assistance and moving is not an option.

Both neighbours said they're worried about Murray.

"I've seen a difference in George," said the woman. "George is known to be helpful, kind and friendly with everyone... He's very reserved now. He used to talk to everybody. Now, he's never here."

Murray said he feels better when he's away from home: "I can't sleep and I'm staying away from my apartment. I just don't want to be there."

Abuse is a major source of stress and can have long-term effects on older adults, Prevent Elder Abuse Manitoba says on its website.

"The stress of abuse may trigger chest pain or angina, and may be a factor in other serious heart problems. High blood pressure, breathing problems, stomach problems (ulcers), and panic attacks are common stress-related symptoms among older people who experience abuse," the coalition says.

"As a result of abuse or neglect, older adults often experience worry, depression, or anxiety. These signs may be mistaken for memory loss or illness, when really they are the effects of stress or worry."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 11:46 AM CDT: Typo fixed.

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