Since the early spring, there have been 11 sexual assaults, including one rape, in Park Slope and surrounding neighborhoods.
In response the NYPD has released information about at least three suspects, including multiple videos and composite sketches, and increased police presence in the area. While we applaud the police for taking the attacks seriously, neighborhood residents are concerned with some aspects of the police response.
The Wall Street Journal reports that officers are telling women not to wear shorts or skirts to prevent being assaulted. This is victim-blaming, not prevention. This approach is indicative of a police force that is effectively disconnected from the community and unaffected by the current outcry and mass mobilizations against rape and victim blaming provoked by a Toronto police officer’s declaration that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Safe Slope, a Brooklyn-based collective formed in response to the attacks, recently chronicled additional worrying NYPD behavior, including:
- Officers following women home at night without communicating with them and showing video of the attacks to residents without warning, both practices that are frightening and triggering to sexual assault survivors.
- Only providing information about the assaults to women, which sends the message that men and genderqueer people aren’t sexually assaulted - a dangerous myth - and that sexual assault prevention is a women’s issue rather than the responsibility of the entire community.
- Only providing prevention and information materials in English, which prevents non-English speaking members of the community from receiving safety tips and information they need to protect themselves.
These missteps are the latest examples of a police department that is unprepared to responsibly and effectively prevent rape and sexual assault. A police force that is hurting those it is supposed to protect, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of society, is an outrage and an affront to the civil and human rights of all and requires action at all levels. Systemic victim-blaming leaves all people, but especially historically marginalized members of society, more susceptible to violence and arrest when they report rape or sexual assault to the police. We must build an analysis of police behavior, recklessness, lack of sensitivity and lack of adequate training as a systemic problem that has a significantly negative impact on those affected by violence and their communities.
In two recent incidents, two NYPD officers were accused of rape - and convicted of official misconduct for repeatedly entering the home of a woman without cause - and another officer was apprehended while committing a sexual assault. Videos have also been circulating of police violence at the Occupy Wall Street protests, adding to public mistrust of the NYPD and its motives, tactics, and actions.
We, the undersigned, call on Commissioner Ray Kelly to enact these steps immediately in regard to the situation in Park Slope:
- Immediately order sensitivity training for all officers assigned to work on the Park Slope case, to be completed by October 15th
- Ensure officers provide information about sexual assaults and prevention in Spanish and other languages reflective of community needs
- Ensure information on sexual assault be provided to individuals who are not female-bodied people
- Insist NYPD officers identify themselves and inform people who are being followed home
We further call on Commissioner Kelly to:
- Insist all NYPD officers complete mandatory sensitivity training by January 1st, 2012.
- Facilitate a safe and violence-free SlutWalk in New York City on Saturday October 1, 2011 with zero instances of police brutality or unwarranted police force.
The Line Campaign
The organizers of SlutWalk NYC
Women in Media and News