COLORADO, USA — Hikers hitting the trail this summer have had more to worry about than just bad weather or wildlife. In the past week, at least two men have been arrested for sexually assaulting women out in nature.
"It's scary. It's scary for all of us," said Megan Carvajal, executive director at The Blue Bench, a center for sexual assault survivors.
Even when we don't hear about it and may assume it's not happening, she said sexual violence is still everywhere.
"I'm very grateful to the survivors who chose to report this to help us end this," said Carvajal.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, survivors reported ten sexual assault incidents on trails in the area. It happened in places like Alderfer/Three Sisters, Flying J Ranch and Genesee parks.
That all led to the arrest of 20-year-old Glenn Braden on Tuesday.
Braden faces felony charges including unlawful sexual contact and attempted sexual assault.
"It reminds me that when something like this hits the news, other victims often come forward who didn't feel like they could report before," said Carvajal.
Another man, 50-year-old William Tidwell, was arrested on Monday for a separate incident.
According to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, a survivor reported she was hiking near Nederland when a man driving what looked like a search and rescue vehicle offered her a ride to another trail. She was sexually and physically assaulted before getting away and reporting the incident.
Tidwell was taken into custody by Idaho Springs Police on suspicion of second-degree assault - unlawful sexual contact by force, and impersonation of a public servant. Investigators said they believe there might be more victims.
Then in Douglas County, some hikers like Tessa Brennan are being more cautious as deputies continue to search for another sexual assault suspect.
"I never play my music too loud and I always keep my pepper spray on me and I usually tell my parents where I'm going and always keep my phone on me just in case they need to track me," said Brennan.
The man hasn't been found yet, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. He's accused of following a horseback rider while performing lewd acts before riding away on his bike on the trails at Bluffs Regional Park.
The sheriff and Carvajal encourage people to be mindful of your surroundings.
"When we go on hikes, if it's appropriate, don't go by yourself. If something like this happens, in the moment, use your voice," said Carvajal. "We want to enjoy nature and none of us should have to fear for our lives when we're out doing this."
Blue Bench has a 24/7 sexual assault hotline: 303-322-7273
They can help you with support, including reporting the incident and visiting the hospital, if needed.
Blue Bench said they have increased call volumes right now and are looking for volunteer help, if you're interested in getting involved.
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