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Lakeview Residents On Edge After Weekend Sexual Assault

By Quinn Ford | November 5, 2013 1:21pm
 Lakeview residents are on edge after a sexual assault near Belmont Avenue and Sheridan Road early Sunday morning.
Lakeview Sexual Assault
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LAKEVIEW — A sexual assault in Lakeview over the weekend is alarming some residents, though others said they still feel safe in the North Side neighborhood.

A 24-year-old woman was hospitalized after she was sexually assaulted about 4:15 a.m. in the 400 block of West Belmont Avenue.

A man approached the woman from behind as she was entering her apartment, forced himself inside and sexually assaulted her before running away, police said. The woman was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center after the attack.

On Tuesday, 19-year-old Mary Kate McPhilliamy said she has always felt safe in the neighborhood.

"I did until now," McPhilliamy said. "That spooked me a little bit ... I haven't into anything but nice people around here. It's pretty surprising."

McPhilliamy, who works at Belmont Army, said she recently bought pepper spray from the store to protect herself, which McPhilliamy said she feels is necessary for any young woman in the city.

"Decently attractive women usually need some sort of protection," she said. "You can be as strong as you want to be, but there's always someone stronger."

Police released a sketch and description of the attacker. He is described as a black man in his 30s, 6-feet tall and about 185 pounds. On Tuesday, the Guardian Angels distributed fliers with the attackers description and posted them to light poles near where the attack occurred.

Cicely Green, 24, said she is worried the police description may lead to heightened suspicion of black men in the neighborhood, something she said already happens in Lakeview.

"That's the one thing that concerns me that everyone's going to, you know, go accusing black males," Green said.

But Green said she was glad to see the Guardian Angels raising awareness of the attack.

The group will offer a free, two-hour self-defense course for men and women at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 720 W. Belmont Ave., on Saturday. The course is for anyone 13 years or older and will teach people how "not to become a victim" and also what to do if attacked, Guardian Angels director Miguel Fuentes said.

Green, 24, of Lakeview said she also carries pepper spray but said it probably would not do much good if she were caught off-guard and attacked.

"It's deep in my bag, so when it came down to it, I don't think I would reach it," Green said. "It just kind of makes me feel a little better."

Walking down Belmont Avenue Tuesday, Green said she was returning from a mixed martial arts boxing gym that offers self-defense classes. She said she goes to the gym moreso to work out than as a way to protect herself, and despite the news of Sunday's attack, Green said she generally feels safe, especially given news of worse violence happening elsewhere in the city.

"I feel fine," she said. "I don't like to walk around feeling scared of the world."

Erika Smith, a Lakeview mom, said she also feels safe in neighborhood. She said never goes out late at night and said crime is a fact of life the city.

"Any big city has to deal with these things," she said. "If you don't want to worry about it, then don't move to Chicago."

Smith said she also believes something like more police on the street probably would not have prevented the attack.

But McPhilliamy said the stretch of Belmont Avenue seems to have a heavy police presence during the day and wondered how something like a sexual assault could happen on the busy stretch.

"I'm a little surprised," she said. Police "are not around at four in the morning? I don't understand. That's a little strange."

For McPhilliamy, the attack was a reminder to be cautious about walking around the city.

"Always travel with a buddy, with a buddy or mace. Either one," she said.