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Petition Requests Free Self-Defense Classes for Brooklyn Women; Rapist Still at Large [Update]

Not to be alarmist, but there is a serial sexual assailant on the loose in Brooklyn. We've written about him here before, but he's still at large; he's suspected of one rape and five attempted rapes along Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, on 16th Street in Park Slope, and in Bay Ridge. The most recent attack was just a couple of weeks ago.

Now, a new petition is asking that free self-defense classes be offered to women in the area. Here's an excerpt from a letter by the author of the petition, a Park Slope resident, to Community Board 7 and Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez:

The recent attacks in our neighborhood are disturbing and disgusting, but rather than recommend that women carry rape whistles and find escorts to keep them safe, we should be empowering women to defend themselves. I would like to request that a series of self defense classes be offered to women in our community in English, Spanish and Chinese. While completing a self defense course in no way assures safety, peer reviewed studies show that physically and verbally fighting back is effective in preventing rapes by strangers. I have created a petition to gauge the community's interest in attending a course like this, and encourage the CB and Councilwoman Gonzalez to consider offering such a course while the police are completing their investigation.

We're waiting to hear from the woman behind the petition. No one at Community Board 7, which covers Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, was available to comment, and a rep from Sara Gonzalez's office didn't have a comment at this time.

In case you haven't been following, a rundown of the crimes:

1. On Sunday, March 20, at around 11:30 p.m. the first victim, a 24-year-old woman, was walking near 151 16th Street in Park Slope. The suspect approached her from behind, pushed her to the ground, and tried to rape her. She managed to break free, but sustained minor injuries as a result of the attack.

2. On May 3, 2011, at about 11:20 p.m. in Bay Ridge, the suspect, this time armed with a knife, grabbed a 32-year-old woman from behind and tried to force her into a driveway. The victim struggled, and the suspect fled on foot.

3. Later that month, on May 29 at 10:25 p.m. around 55th Street in Sunset Park, the suspect again approached a woman, this time a 20-year-old, forced her down to the ground, and tried to rape her. She resisted, and the suspect took off down 55th Street.

4. At 2:55 in the morning on June 4 around the same area in Sunset Park, the suspect followed the victim, 28, into the vestibule of her apartment. He pushed her to the ground and raped her.

5. On June 25 at 4 a.m., the victim, 36, was going into her apartment in Sunset Park when the suspect, attempting to push her down to the ground, came up behind her and grabbed her throat. The woman screamed, and the suspect ran away. Luckily, she wasn't injured.

6. The latest attack happened on August 26 at approximately 8:45 p.m. The 28-year-old victim was approached from behind by the suspect who followed his typical pattern and grabbed her, groping her breasts. He tried to bring her down to the ground, she screamed, and he fled.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man between 25 and 30, about 5'7" and 165 pounds. You can sign the petition for free self-defense classes here.

Update 3:06 p.m.: We just heard back from Sara Gonzalez's office, and it turns out the Councilwoman will be funding free self-defense classes for women, starting soon! Her rep couldn't say exactly when they'll be starting, but they'll be held at P.S. 10 on Prospect Avenue and will be on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for 25-100 people. Gonzalez will also be giving out hundreds of rape whistles. We'll update when we know more specifics about the classes.

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

Go to Runnin' Scared for more Voice news coverage.


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