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Ottawa police investigate recent reports of sexual violence in the city

Photo courtesy of Nile Livesey (CC)

Ottawa police have charged a cab driver for one count of sexual assault in connection with an incident that occurred inside a taxi earlier this month.

Nidal Zeiti, a 52-year-old male, allegedly assaulted  a 20-year-old woman inside his Blue Line taxi near McCarthy and Walkley Roads on Nov. 9.

Zeiti was charged Nov. 13 granted bail on Nov. 15 with the conditions that he cannot operate a taxi, or be alone with any woman that is not a member of his family. Zeiti returned to court Nov. 19.

Police used GPS tracking devices and video footage to examine the taxis. They were able to narrow their search from 1,000 taxis to 50 and from there linked Zeiti’s cab to the crime.

Zeiti is charged with one of two sexual assaults that took place in taxicabs this month.

Ottawa police have released new information regarding the incident that occurred on Nov. 2.

It was reported a 17-year-old girl hailed a taxi from Hull to Sandy Hill, where she was alledgedly assaulted by the cab driver inside the vehicle. Authorities are now unsure whether the incident took place in a taxi and if it was even a driver who committed the crime. No charges have been laid in connection with this assault.

Recently reported sexual assaults by strangers in Ottawa have raised concerns over the city’s safety. In the past two weeks, Ottawa has seen an attempted rape in Sandy Hill, a sexual assault involving a taxi, as well as a hair-hacking incident on Preston Street that sparked concern by authorities.

Hollaback! Ottawa, a local advocacy group aimed at ending street violence, issued an open letter in October about the mixed messages women receive about sexual assault. The letter highlighted the problems with the current discourse toward women to take precautions to avoid rape.

“We are addressing sexual violence in the wrong way in this city,” said Hollaback! director Julie Lalonde. “Nobody asks to be sexually assaulted.”

Ottawa police have stated they’re dedicated to ending sexual violence and they will give women the necessary information and precautions they need.

“We are, as an organization, committed to ending violence against women and we have been actively investigating several recent sexual assaults that impact our community,” said Inspector John McKenna in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen.

However, these precautions are what Lalonde finds problematic.

“We want to see a community response where we have bystander intervention,” she said. “If you witness sexual violence, what’s your role in intervening in that moment? As a community, we need to also support survivors when they do come forward.”

Lalonde also said it is possible that violent sexual assaults have increased in the city, but until there is empirical data it cannot be said for sure whether Ottawa has become more dangerous.

“It’s too early to tell if the sexual assaults we’ve been hearing about lately have resulted in Ottawa having more sexual assault this year than they did the year before,” she said.

Sexual assaults are also under-reported. According to Statistics Canada, self-reported victimization data constantly demonstrates an undercount between the assaults that occur versus the ones that get reported to the police.