The family of a 15-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women in Toronto's Bloor and Christie area says the arrest is a mistake.
The uncle of the teen, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, told reporters on Monday that he's shocked by the arrest Saturday at around 11 p.m. ET near Bloor Street West and Roxton Road — the area where police allege another sexual assault occurred.
"He is a very innocent kid," said the uncle, whose name isn't being revealed to protect the identity of the accused. "He has a very good heart. He is not a person who [attacks] people or who hurts people."
The teen was charged with14 counts of sexual assault and two counts of criminal harassment, and was denied bail on Monday.
He sat expressionless during the bail hearing, held hours after police announced he had been charged in connection with the sexual assaults.
The assaults began in the summer and involved the attack of women from behind as they walked at night.
Age of suspect unusual
Todd Minerson, executive director of the White Ribbon Campaign, an organization that works toward preventing violence against women, said he was shocked by the age of the suspect, but "probably not surprised."
"We're really seeing a hypersexualization and a commodification of women at an earlier and earlier age," Minerson told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday.
"And the implication of that for young boys is that they're seeing young women sexualized at a younger and younger age. So they're getting exposed to those messages at an age when they can't really process that properly. "
Staff Insp. Mary Lee Metcalfe, commander of the sex crimes unit, said it is unusual for a youth to be accused of such serious charges.
"It is not something that we encounter on a regular basis, but in this particular set of occurrences, we are confident that we have the proper person charged and before the courts," she said.
The investigation is still open, and Toronto police Chief Bill Blair has encouraged anyone with additional information about the sexual assaults to come forward.