CLERMONT, Fla. – A woman was left bruised and hysterically crying with her clothes ripped after two men raped her in a wooded area near Lake Hiawatha Preserve Wednesday, according to the Clermont Police Department.
The victim said she was walking that afternoon when two men riding bicycles and wearing all black clothing approached and started making inappropriate comments about her appearance, records show. The woman ignored the men until one of them slapped her butt, which is when she told them to leave her alone, according to authorities.
Police said one of the men pushed her to the ground and dragged her by her hair into a wooded area. The victim pulled out a pocketknife in an attempt to defend herself, but one of the men grabbed it and used it to rip her clothes open, according to the report.
The victim said she “stayed quiet” as the men raped for about five or 10 minutes, records show. She was unable to move for another five or 10 minutes after the attack.
“All I could do was lay there,” she said, according to the report.
Eventually, police said the woman left the wooded area and asked a passerby to use her phone to call police.
“She needs police help,” the 911 caller said. “She obviously was raped out here.”
When officers arrived at the park, they said the victim was disheveled with her clothes ripped, she was limping, she had bruising on her body and her lip.
She said both her attackers were wearing dark clothing, in their 20s or 30s and smelled of cigar smoke, records show. Police said one man was average height with curly hair past his shoulders. The other man was short and had a black and white tattoo of a name on the back of his right calf, according to the report.
Clermont police said Thursday that surveillance cameras in the park stopped working due to a power outage. By Friday, they were operational again.
“Unfortunately, the camera system that is out on Lake Hiawatha Preserve is a stand-alone system and the recorder that monitors that and records all the video, if the power comes out, it does not automatically come back on,” Captain Michael McMaster said Friday. “So obviously we learned that yesterday, Everything is active now, everything is back active recording and working.”
McMaster said they have no idea when the power outage happened and how long the cameras weren’t working for. The 15 cameras were installed in two phases beginning shortly after the Preserve opened in 2014. In the meantime, city officials have enacted a new policy requiring the park rangers to check the cameras on a daily basis to make sure they are recording.
“Now it goes back to the old police work, we take the electronics aspect out of it,” McMaster said. “It’s really going to be a situation where we are going to be relying on people in the community that may have been on the trail.”
No evidence was found at the area where the attack happened, records show.
“All leads are being investigated by our detectives to include any possible connection between all parties involved. We believe this is an isolated incident due to the fact that we have not had any similar reported incidents to our department or any other surrounding agency,” Clermont police said.
Sketches of the attackers will be completed if the victim is able to provide further information.
Survivors of sexual assault can receive free help 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).