As sexual assaults continue, residents rally for safer streets

September 15, 2011 Heather Chin
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Nearly 500 frustrated and outraged residents of Park Slope,Greenwood Heights, Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park thronged thestreets earlier this month to protest a string of sexual assaults,including several attempted rapes and one rape in the area, overthe last six months.

We’re here to try to do something, out of desperation. We’refearful, scared, constantly checking over our shoulder and wealready don’t walk with our headphones on, said friends Katrinaand Ayn, who live in South Slope. I make my husband walk the dogat night, said Katrina, while Ayn noted that she has her husbandmeet her on her way home. I shouldn’t need an escort to walkhome, she said.

South Slope mom Berta Bustamante concurred, as she walked withthe crowd down a partially closed Fourth Avenue last Wednesday,September 14, her four-year-old daughter Mares chanting No MoreSilence! No More Violence! while sitting atop her shoulders.

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I want Mares to know that when there is a problem in thecommunity, to stand up for it, and that she has a right to safestreets, Bustamante said, adding that her daughter understood whythey had come out, and that she wanted to make sure the victimsknow that she supports them.

Those voicing their support during the march from the ProspectAvenue R subway station to Detective Joseph Mayrose Park includedsingle women, single men, couples, parents, families, neighborhoodmotorcycle patrols, the LGBTQ community, anti-violence advocates,community leaders and elected officials. They carried banners, litcandles and, most importantly, a desire to band together.

If you see someone getting harassed, cat-called at… call thatout, said Kimberlynn Acevedo, a representative of anti-violenceagainst women organization, SlutWalkNYC, to the hundreds gatheredinside the park. I have your back, you have my back.

Tools of resistance and awareness distributed included rapewhistles from Councilmember Sara González’s office, sign-up sheetsfor self-defense classes with the Center for Anti-ViolenceEducation (CAE), and repeated reminders from rally organizers toremain alert, and stay on large, well-lit streets. There were alsotips on how to fight back in case of attack.

Awareness is key. Keep wide vision, with no cells or music[on]. Use your voices in a way to spread awareness, said AnnieEllman, a founder and head instructor at CAE. Put the heel of thepalm to the nose [of the attacker], for short range defense.

Two to three men are believed to have separately attackedbetween eight and 11 women since March of this year. The lone rapeoccurred on June 4 inside a 27th Street vestibule. All of thevictims are described as petite, white women, between the ages of21 and 32, most of whom were wearing skirts at the time.

The first suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his late20s, approximately 5’7 tall and weighing around 165 pounds. Thesecond suspect is described as a bit more muscular, 5’6 and 28to 32 years old, last seen wearing a red T-shirt and blackpants.

Police thought they had their man in June after arresting24-year-old William Giraldo of Bensonhurst for the rape, but thecharges were dropped after other victims failed to identify him andmore attacks occurred while he was in prison.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Sara Mathisof the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad at 718-230-4418 or SergeantRobert Mirabal of the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau at212-614-6745.

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