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.