11/10/2014 04:56 EST | Updated 01/10/2015 05:59 EST

Winnipeg police appeal for help in case of teen assaulted, dumped in river

WINNIPEG - Police in Winnipeg are appealing for help after a 16-year-old girl was seriously assaulted and ended up in the frigid Assiniboine River.

Police took the unusual step of identifying the victim — with her parents' permission — as Rinelle Harper. Police said she was from the remote northern Manitoba reserve of God's Lake Narrows, but family said she was from the Garden Hill First Nation.

“Rinelle is a person in this community," Supt. Danny Smyth told a news conference Monday. "She's a person that has a family. It's important that people are aware that this is an unacceptable attack on our youth and we're hopeful that this will resonate with the community and that the community will come forward and help us."

Police say Harper was out with friends Friday night before she was attacked near a bridge in the city's downtown.

The girl managed to pull herself out of the water onto a walkway, where she was discovered by a passerby and rushed to hospital in critical condition.

Police are asking anyone with information that could help their investigation to come forward.

The homicide unit is investigating, although Harper has been upgraded to stable condition.

"At this point it appears that Rinelle Harper will recover from the attack and ordeal she underwent," police said in a statement Monday.

The teen is living in Winnipeg with her family while she attends school. Police say she was not known to them before the attack, which they called "sexual in nature."

In August, 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was pulled from Winnipeg's Red River. She had been in the city less than a month and had run away from foster care. Her body was found Aug. 17, wrapped in plastic, just over a week after she had been reported missing.

Police haven't said how she died but are treating her death as a homicide. No arrests have been made.