Assault victim is on a mission
BASALT – A 24-year-old victim of a brutal assault in Basalt in August is reaching out to the community for help finding her attacker and to warn other women to be careful.”I learned that the place where I grew up has changed – not for the better,” said the victim, who asked not to be identified for fear of her safety.The woman was raised in the Roaring Fork Valley and returned after college. She said she never felt threatened in any situation in the valley – until the morning of Aug. 5. She said she is “heartbroken” that a woman is no longer safe while walking alone at night.The woman got off a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus at the Diamond Shamrock gas station at the main intersection in Basalt around 3 a.m. She was alone and nervous about the behavior of four Latino men who also exited the bus. She allowed them to pass on foot and walked to the gas station to call her boyfriend for a ride. While on the phone, one of the men approached her and asked if she was all right. She told him to get away and called 911. While on the phone, which wasn’t working properly, the man approached her again from a different direction. This time he attacked.”He was hitting me closefisted, with both fists,” the victim said. “His intention was to knock me out.”She said she was “shocked” by the attack and feared she would be sexually assaulted if she was knocked unconscious, so she was determined to fight back. She may have hit him with the telephone receiver in the pandemonium that followed, she said. She was knocked to the ground and kept kicking, hitting and screaming. At one point she bit his finger hard enough for blood to spurt all over them.The attacker kept punching her as well. She ended up with battered eyes and cuts on her face. The flurry of activity was over in about one minute. The victim is only 5 feet, 4 inches tall but a self-described tomboy who grew up skiing and playing hard in the mountains. Her tenacity probably prevented a rape attempt, she said.”If it wasn’t me, the outcome would have been different,” she said.The attacker fled when her boyfriend arrived at the scene. Her boyfriend caught the man and tussled with him, but the man escaped when he slipped out of a sweatshirt.Police searched the area but couldn’t find the attacker. Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda said his officers contacted roughly 24 men with similarities to the description the victim provided over the course of the investigation. None turned out to be the attacker.There was a similar attack on a woman at the Rubey Park bus station in Aspen about one hour before the Basalt incident. Officials suspect the same man was responsible. There have not been any similar attacks since Aug. 5.”He probably fled the area,” Ikeda said.The victim isn’t ruling out that her attacker is still around or, if he left, that a job will lure him to return during the winter. Somebody in the valley knows his whereabouts, she said.”I’m not backing down,” she said. “I look for this guy every day.”She wants him caught not only to prevent him from striking again, but because she wants to know what triggered his unprovoked attack on a stranger. She urges anyone with information to call the Basalt Police Department at 927-4316. She is working on establishing a fund to provide a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest.Her injuries linger nearly three months after the attack. “My hearing is not as acute,” the victim said. “I have a few scars on my face. My peripheral vision (in one eye) is gone.”She is receiving counseling to cope with the aftermath of the attack and reasons that she is not a victim if she can prevent other women from suffering the same fate. Women should be aware of their surroundings and have a plan in mind in case they are confronted, she said.She is particularly concerned about girls. Parents should stress that they travel in pairs and stay alert. “I want teenagers to watch their backs,” she said.The victim stressed that she doesn’t see the incident as racial or cultural. She is calling on all people to help prevent the violence.
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