At about 4 a.m. on a Tuesday in May, a woman in her early 20s woke up to the feeling of a strange man lying on top of her. He'd broken into an apartment in the 2300 block of West Hickory Street in Denton, which has buildings filled with students who attend the nearby University of North Texas. He fled the scene shortly after the victim awakened and fended him off as he attempted to sexually assault her.
The assault is one of a string reported in the area, leading police to suspect that a serial rapist is preying on Denton women.
“Since our major crimes investigative unit made the determination that the offenses may be linked, it has been the top priority and continues to be our top priority,” says Lt. Chris Summitt of the Denton Police Department's criminal investigation division. “We’re trying to determine if it’s a single individual or multiple suspects.”
The descriptions of suspects leave a lot of gaps. Denton police report that attackers have been more than 6 feet tall, extremely broad and dark-skinned but of unknown race and age. Summitt says his team is still waiting for the DNA test results to determine if one man is connected to several sexual assault and attempted sexual assault offenses in Denton.
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Denton is home to both Texas Woman's University and the University of North Texas, and young students may be the targets. A couple of weeks ago, the University of North Texas sent out a warning to students, faculty and staff about the sexual assaults and the police investigation. The university claimed the suspect had no previous relationship with the victims, who may or may not be students. But police decline to provide the number of incidents or any other details related to crime victims except that there were no similarities among the victims.
Dr. Nicole Holmes of Denton County Friends of the Family, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of rape, abuse and domestic violence, says the group sees a lot of sexual assault victims who are college freshmen. Holmes says victims sometimes blame themselves when someone breaks in and attempts to assault them, thinking, "'Maybe if I had done, X, Y and Z,' or 'If I could have only stopped it,' or 'If only I had done something different, it may not have happened.'”
Sometimes the victims feel at fault because they are causing their family members pain, Holmes says.
“It’s amazing how we as humans can blame ourselves when we are not at fault,” she says. “And clearly we can say it’s not your fault, and yet the individual can do so much self blame.”