NYPD to Brooklyn women: Don’t wear short skirts

On the eve of the NYC SlutWalk, it’s being reported that an NYPD officer is telling women in the South Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn not to wear short skirts or shorts to avoid being victimized by a serial sexual assaulter who has been attacking women in the neighborhood since March. From the Wall Street Journal:

Lauren, a South Slope resident, was walking home three blocks from the gym on Monday when she was stopped.

The 25-year-old, who did not want her last name to be used, was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when she claims a police officer asked if she would stop and talk to him. He also stopped two other women wearing dresses.

According to Lauren, the officer asked if they knew what was going on in the neighborhood. When they answered in the affirmative, he asked if they knew what the guy was looking for.

“He pointed at my outfit and said, ‘Don’t you think your shorts are a little short?’” she recalled. “He pointed at their dresses and said they were showing a lot of skin.”

He said that such clothing could make the suspect think he had “easy access,” said Lauren.

She said the officer explained that “you’re exactly the kind of girl this guy is targeting.”

It’s pretty unbelievable that this tactic, of focusing efforts to prevent sexual assault, continues amongst police officers despite the huge response a similar incident in Toronto received last year.

It will likely only add fuel to the fire of those participating in tomorrow’s NYC SlutWalk.

Slutwalk has garnered much discussion within feminist circles, and particularly strong critiques from black women who feel that the movement isn’t adequately addressing their concerns about the use of the word “slut.”

While the tactics and execution of the SlutWalk movement remain contested, the one thing most people can get behind is the necessity to fight back against the idea that a person’s clothing determines whether they are sexually assaulted. Incidents like this just prove exactly how necessary it is to fight those ideas.

I would guess that even if all the women of Park Slope wore full-body sweatsuits every day from now on, the man who has been committing these sexual assaults would continue.

As I wrote earlier, sexual assault is a not an individual problem, and individual solutions won’t work. It may easier to focus on these individual solutions, when the real, larger, systemic causes of sexual assault remain unchallenged.

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15 Comments

  1. Posted September 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Does the NYPD also inform drivers of Mercedes Benzes that they should consider driving low-end cars so as not get their cars stolen? What about telling men in suits and ties that they should dress down to avoid being pickpocketed?

    Idiotic.

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      No, but they do ask if the doors were locked if you report a theft from the vehicle. And they do ask why you were carrying a moderate amount of cash, like it makes a difference.

      • Posted October 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure theft from a car isn’t really comparable with raping an actual person.

        Also, here is a useful analogy from the internets: http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/a-useful-rape-analogy/

        • Posted October 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure theft from a car isn’t really comparable with raping an actual person.

          I hear or read things like this all the time, and I find it somewhat troublesome. While I absolutely understand that analogies like Dan’s can be used as a silencing tactic, as victim blaming, or as a way of shifting the focus of a discussion, that may not always be the case.

          Theft from a car isn’t the same thing as raping an actual person, but that hardly means that they aren’t comparable. Indeed, comparing the two may in fact help to clarify the actual societal viewpoints and problems at work here. There may be something genuinely useful to learn from examining the similarities between the way police handle rape and the way they handle other crimes.

      • Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:24 am | Permalink

        I don’t know about NYPD but last year while I was vacationing in California, my condo was burgled. My parents had left the back door unlocked but the police didn’t care about that. “That doesn’t give people the right to enter and steal.” They said and the situation was handled very well. Now if only all cops can take this attitude about crime.

  2. Posted September 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Park Slope? Isn’t this the guy(the rapist) they got on street camera earlier this year going for a woman in long jeans and a jacket?

    Some of these Brooklyn cops seem to have nothing better to do than give people grief for this that or the other thing or try to not tell you why they’re detaining you or rip down paid for billboards advising people of their rights when stopped by police. Anyway, cops like that can go feck.

    Others we’ve dealt with have been cool and reasonable.

    I’ve not heard of any “official” NYPD statement regarding how Park Slope women should dress, so my suspicion is that this individual cop is using his badge to run his own head trip on women and make it seem like something “official”, which it’s not.

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      From the article…

      In a neighborhood with a reputation for liberal and feminist tendencies,

      Wait, PARK SLOPE? I’ve never heard anything about that being a hub of feminist activity, what is this writer talking about?

      • Posted October 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        It was, back in the ’80s and early ’90s. Not that anyone from the Wall Street Journal has probably visited Park Slope since then, of course…

  3. Posted September 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Now I get how it’s insulting and mansplaining for the officer to tell women not to dress lightly to avoid getting raped. But what’s your suggestion for catching the serial rapist and how to defend oneself if a spree criminal is lurking in your neighborhood? 2nd amendment solutions?

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Alert posture, eyes high, and a confident stride. Appearance (not clothing) is as effective at protection as a firearm, and much more acceptable to display openly.

  4. Posted September 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    If this cop is so concerned maybe he should be helping out with this effort: safeslope.org a group that put together a volunteer dispatch that is providing safe walks home. Or maybe he should be searching for the rapist. I can’t even imagine how creepy and terrifying it would be to be told by an officer–or any man– that my shorts were too short or I was revealing too much skin and that’s exactly what the rapist is looking for. As far as I know, none of his victims were selected because of their attire, but comments like that would make me feel like I was in the company of a rapist and I’d be wanting a name and badge number right away.

  5. Posted September 30, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Is this walk specific to NYC or are there opportunities for a march here in Florida??? I was sexually assaulted at the age of 13 and was told it was my fault. For years I was ashamed of myself, naturally, I want to make a difference locally, any suggestions?? Thank you!

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Slut Walks are happening all over the world. As far as I know, you don’t have to do anything special to start one. The club that I’m in held one on our campus last week after the dialogue about sexual assault got way into victim blaming territory. We just arranged for somebody to speak, got a permit from the city, and advertised all over campus about it. I was incredibly proud that my very rural university had 100 people show up and march.

  6. Posted September 30, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    This is ridiculous! I can’t believe another police officer is saying this crap. You know, you’d think an officer would be smart enough to know that rape is all about power and control over the victim, not because the victim is considered “eye-candy.” You think there would be a class explaining about rape and assault for officers in training. What in the world is going on?!

  7. Posted October 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    The link from the text “strong critiques from black women” appears to be broken.

    It probably refers to:

    http://newblackman.blogspot.com/2011/09/open-letter-from-black-women-to.html

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