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Police asking for help in investigation of sexual predator flyers posted in Atwood community

Police ask for help in investigation of sexual predator flyers posted in Atwood community

MADISON, Wis. - Flyers warning people of a potential sexual predator in the Atwood community have sparked many conversations online. 

The flyers, first noticed this weekend by a member of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara community Facebook group, state the sexual predator is an east side Madison bar owner who "targets female customers" but does not mention his name or which bar he owns. 

The flyers give specific examples of things this alleged person has done, including "creates uncomfortable situations where people feel compelled to allow him to push boundaries due to his position as owner," "uses sex or verbal abuse to exert control," "uses excessive intoxication to blur the lines of consent," "coerces women into uncomfortable situations and may try to gain consent after the fact" and several others. 

Madison Police Department spokesperson Joel DeSpain said that while the police are aware of the flyers, there isn't much they can do until a formal complaint against the alleged sexual predator is filed. 

But, the Rape Crisis Center's executive director, Erin Thornley-Parisi, said whoever wrote and posted the flyers may have purposely avoided police. 

"I think that, at this point, this person has made the choice to work outside of the criminal justice system and has made the choice to have this be at a grassroots level, just warning other women," Thornley-Parisi said. 

The original Facebook post that made people aware of the flyers showed a photo of a flyer that was located at the intersection of South Baldwin and Willy streets. The flyer has since been removed. 

One business owner along Willy Street said she saw someone, whom she believes the flyers are about, tearing the flyer down. She did not want to be interviewed on camera. 

Several other flyers are still posted around the Atwood community. Atwood resident Kimberlee Wright said she's lived in the area for more than 30 years and hasn't seen anything like this happen before. 

"I didn't have a lot of time to read it. It sounds like it's describing a pattern of one or more people who are enticing or hoodwinking people," Wright said. 

Patrick Masters is an Atwood resident who lives near one of the flyers that is still posted. He said he didn't even notice the flyers at first, but said it's something to pay attention to since the allegations are very specific. 

"Either it's a lot of really bad things to say about someone or it's a really bad thing someone is doing and continuing to do," Masters said. "Either it's grossly inappropriate or this is the only option that someone or a group of people have to try to combat someone from doing something grossly inappropriate."

Thornley-Parisi said the Rape Crisis Center has not received any calls from anyone about the flyers but is happy the Crisis Center phone number is listed on the flyer as a resource for potential victims. 

"I think this was a smart thing to do, actually. I think it's women taking care of each other in the neighborhood. Women don't always want to report to police," Thornley-Parisi said. 

If you are a victim of sexual assault and would like to contact someone for help, the phone number for the Rape Crisis Center is 608-251-7273. If you have information regarding the flyers, you can call the Madison Police Department's nonemergency line at 608-255-2345.

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