A woman has described how she was left ‘terrified’ when a man groped her as she jogged near a zoo.
Rachel Stride, 21, was sexually assaulted as she ran near Bristol Zoo Gardens on Monday evening.
She feared for her life when a man dressed all in black ran up behind her and made a ‘really aggressive grab’ for her backside.
The Cardiff Metropolitan University student, who lives in Bristol, said: ‘I had been up at Circular Road and I was coming down the steep, dark hill that leads near the zoo.
Rachel Stride, 21, was sexually assaulted as she ran near Bristol Zoo Gardens on Monday evening
‘I was getting towards a spot with more light and I thought, ‘I’ve got past the scary bits, it’s going to be alright’.
‘Then I heard these steps behind me. I thought it was just another runner so I kept going. As the steps got closer, I moved out of the way to let them past.
‘Then I felt this big grip on my backside. I had one earphone in so I’m not certain if he said anything. It was a really nasty thing. I was terrified.’
As Rachel turned, the man sprinted back up the hill. She did not get a good look at his face, but says he was wearing a tracksuit, all dark apart from white Adidas stripes along the sleeve.
‘I reckon he was wearing dark clothes so he could get back into the shadows easily,’ she added.
The Cardiff Metropolitan University student, who lives in Bristol, said: ‘I had been up at Circular Road and I was coming down the steep, dark hill that leads near the zoo.’ She says a man came from behind and made a ‘big grip on my backside’
Rachel believes the man may have decided against further violence because she had run into a slightly better-lit area a moment before the attack.
She said: ‘I called after him, saying I was going to call police, to scare him away. I was starting to cry.
‘I got on the phone to police and they told me to get somewhere I could stand in light. There were no shops for me to go in.
‘I flagged down two other girls who were about to run up the hill I’d come down. They kept me company until police arrived, which was really nice.’
Rachel says five police cars and a police dog unit arrived 15 minutes after she called 999.
‘Police told me they thought it was unlikely they’d find him because there were so many people up there and there are so many places to hide on the Downs,’ she added.
Rachel says five police cars and a police dog unit arrived 15 minutes after she called 999
Male violence against women has been heavily discussed in recent days, following the killing of Sarah Everard. The 33-year-old vanished as she walked home alone in Clapham on March 3. Her body was found a week later in Kent woodland.
Rachel, who got a lift home from the Downs in a police car, said: ‘I was so caught up in the moment I wasn’t thinking about that [Sarah Everard’s death].
‘I was talking about it with my boyfriend afterwards. You would think based on what’s going on in the media about this kind of thing, it would stop people doing this, but it seems nothing will. It’s so, so sad.
‘Because I go running at night a lot, I try to keep the thought in my head that this happens to other people, and wouldn’t happen to me.
‘But I am not going out running at night anymore, certainly not in dark spots.’
She added she has dealt with groping and harassment from males on a regular basis since school. It comes amid a nationwide conversation on the issue since the death of Ms Everard.
The Reclaim These Streets campaign, organised by a group of women in the wake of the killing, has raised more than £520,000 for women’s charitable causes in the last four days.
Police said they quickly attended the area near Bridge Valley Road and are now stepping up patrols in the area.
Rachel, who got a lift home from the Downs in a police car, said: ‘I was so caught up in the moment I wasn’t thinking about that [Sarah Everard’s death]’
‘A search of the area was conducted around Ladies Mile, including by the police dogs team, but the offender was not sighted,’ said an Avon and Somerset police spokesman.
‘He is described as white, around 25-35 years of age, with a pointed nose and is believed to have had a mask on. He was wearing a black nylon hooded top with white stripes down the sleeves and had his hood raised.’
Rachel says he may have spoken as he attacked her, though she is not certain, and he potentially had a Bristolian accent.
She described her attacker as ‘quite skinny’ and about 5ft 10ins tall, possibly with blond hair. He appeared to be fit from the way he ran up the hill.
PC Luke Finney said: ‘Understandably the victim is very distressed and upset by what happened last night. We will ensure she has access to any support services that she needs going forward.
‘She did absolutely the right thing in contacting the police and flagging down passers-by to ensure their safety, as well as her own.
‘Our investigation is ongoing to try to identify the offender. Local officers have been made aware of his description and they will be conducting additional high-visibility patrols in the area.
‘We’d urge anyone who saw what happened, has dashcam footage from Ladies Mile and Circular Road, or may have experienced something similar to get in touch to help us with our enquiries.’
Anyone with information about what happened is asked to call 101 and give reference number 5221055425.