10/14/2013 03:55 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Vancouver woman assaulted after getting into vehicle she thought was cab

VANCOUVER - A 25-year-old woman is recovering from a severe beating and sexual assault in Vancouver after getting into a vehicle that she thought was a cab.

It was the first of two weekend attacks on women in different parts of the city.

Const. Brian Montague said that in the first case, the woman believed she'd hailed a taxi for a ride home from the city's Gastown district at about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.

He said the woman was driven to east Vancouver, where she was physically and sexually assaulted in a dark-coloured minivan with sliding doors on both sides.

Montague said the victim managed to break free and run to a passerby for help.

"She is extremely traumatized as well as physically injured," he said.

Montague said the suspect has been described as a 35- to 39-year-old overweight aboriginal man with big belly and a shaved head.

Police are appealing for the public's help in finding the man who may own or have access to the minivan that was mistaken for a taxi.

On Sunday, a 20-year-old student at the University of B.C. was assaulted as she returned to her apartment at about 3:30 a.m.

Sgt. Drew Grainger of the RCMP detachment at UBC said in a statement that the woman was approached from behind by a man who emerged suddenly from a stairwell in the building where she lives.