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* Update: An arrest has been made in this case. On Friday, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest of Terence Rhue, 22, of Plainfield. He was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, third-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with Tuesday’s burglary and sexual assault.¬†

A home invasion and sexual assault in Westfield this week has shaken up not just the local community but families across the entire state. According to multiple reports, a mom returned from a jog on Tuesday afternoon to find a man in her home brandishing a knife. The man sexually assaulted her before she was able to fight him off.

Not only are people shocked that this incident occurred in such a tight-knit community but also that it happened in broad daylight at around 12:50 pm.

The incident has caused women and moms to rethink their own personal safety as well as the safety of their kids. The woman who was attacked managed to escape to a neighbor’s home for help, but the perpetrator is still at large. Anyone with information about the suspect (a sketch is pictured below) is asked to immediately call the Westfield Police Department.

So what can we do to make sure we stay safe while also ensuring our kids stay safe but also maintain some level of independence? There are some simple things we can all do to ensure our own and our children’s well-being. Here are 10 safety tips from a former police officer that you must read and share with your friends:

  1. Be aware. We live in a constant state of distraction these days and this can make you an easy target. When you’re out, don’t be looking down at your phone. Be alert to your surroundings. Earbuds out, especially when you’re in a potentially vulnerable situation.
  2. Trust your instincts. Don’t ignore a gut feeling that tells you someone is following you or that something suspicious is happening. Trust that sixth sense and find another person nearby.
  3. Don’t get too comfortable. Just because you’re in your own neighborhood doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.
  4. Buddy up. You don’t always have to be with another person but especially when it’s dark out, consider going with a friend or bring a flashlight.
  5. Be prepared. Have a pepper spray or taser within reach, not at the bottom of your bag.
  6. Don’t be flashy. Avoid flashing jewelry, cash and yes, your smartphone when you’re out.
  7. Practice car safety. Have your key ready when walking to your car, make sure your tank is full and always lock your doors! Be aware of your surroundings before getting out of your car as well.
  8. Communicate. Make sure your phone is charged when you leave the house and tell someone where you’ll be.
  9. Practice home safety. Always lock your doors even if you live in a safe neighborhood and consider purchasing a security system or security camera like Ring.
  10. Fight if needed. If you do get into a bad situation, scream, run and fight like your life depends on it. Never get into a car with someone.

As for keeping kids safe, the best thing you can do is be an active part of your neighborhood and community. Let your kids know the names and numbers of their neighbors and make sure next-door neighbors know when kids are coming and going if they stay home by themselves. When people work together and look out for one another, we can all stay safer.

Anyone with information about the Westfield case is urged to call Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Annie Coll at 908-347-2474 or Westfield Police Department Detective Betsy Savnik at 908-789-6078.

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