VANCOUVER -- A video appearing to show a sexual encounter on the sidewalk in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has prompted outrage from women’s groups about possible sexualized violence ignored by passersby — though two witnesses tell CTV News they did nothing because the woman did not appear to be in distress.

As Vancouver police investigate whether what happened in the video is a crime, others say the event could be a sign of how COVID restrictions have pushed already severe homelessness to crisis levels, leaving the couple with nowhere private and dignified to go.

“It’s really upsetting that no one stopped, no one seemed to check if she was OK,” said Mebrat Beyene, the executive director of WISH drop-in centre, which is among three organizations pointing to the event as a wake-up call to gendered violence.

“What we’re seeing now is a heightened level of desperation. We’re seeing all of those crises being laid completely bare.”

The low-resolution video, which has been circulating for at least a week, is undated, and has been re-posted several times.

Some passersby can be heard giggling; one says, “You can’t make this up.”

Another observes, “It’s like Roman times.” Another makes an obscene remark to encourage the man involved.

At one point, the camera pans to the left to see the sun over the Carnegie Centre. Using the angle of the sun, and the clock time showing 4:20 p.m., one can conclude the video was shot sometime in early October.

It is a clear day, without clouds, and historical weather records suggest the best candidate would be Oct. 3, 2020.

One witness said the reason he isn’t shown in the video checking on the woman involved is because his impression was that she was not in distress.

The man, who gave his name as DJay, said he walked past the couple several times over the space of about half an hour in the afternoon. He recalled the event happening towards the end of the summer.

“Anything happens down here. That happened. I’ve seen it a couple times,” he said. He said he believed he had seen the couple again together since that day.

Nearby, Marcella “Mama” Jacob, who sat at her perch on the corner, said with so many people made homeless thanks to COVID restrictions that have turfed guests and others who may have been sleeping on others’ couches, the couple may simply have had nowhere to go.

“They’re not accepting visitors,” Jacob said. “Before visitors were allowed to get in. But with COVID it’s getting worse,” she said.

Vancouver police say they have engaged their sex crimes unit for their expertise.

Attempts by CTV News to find the person who recorded the original video, or the man or woman seen in the video themselves have so far been unsuccessful.