Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

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Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:35 am

I am a woman who was victim yesterday (Wed. Feb. 17) of a crime that I think the police are minimizing, and I am very concerned that my neighbors know about it so they will be careful.

At 5:45 p.m. I was walking on the "ring" of the park, the big circle that people use for jogging etc. This is the area right before you get into the part of the woods where the Halloween festivities take place.

Suddenly, on the track, someone jumped me from behind. I couldn't see his face but from his voice and size I knew it was a man. He began dragging me into the woods and said he wanted to have sex with me. He was a large man and I am 5'0" normal weight. He would not let me go. He began masturbating against me while pushing me farther into the woods. This went on for over a minute, maybe two minutes. I believe he ejaculated because he made sounds. Then he let me go and ran off into the woods.

I was terrified and though I had not been raped, I felt much as though I had been. I ran to the hill where kids sled. A parent lent me a cell phone and I called the police. I wanted them to come and chase the perpetrator so I told them I'd meet them at Indian Hill Cafe, but a half hour passed and they never came. I was too scared to walk home to 204th; a kind cafe customer accompanied me. At home I called 911 again. Still the police did not come, after two hours. I called Safe Horizons, the rape crisis center. They helped me contact EMS, who came and expressed outrage that the police had not come. They called again for them.

Suddenly I had 8 police officers in my home, including supervisors. None of them seemed very professional. It took them two hours to interview me and determine what crime had been committed. They seemed very confused and kept calling Special Victims Unit and other supervisors. They seemed embarrassed asking me the details about the sexual part of the assault (they were literally unable to use any word for the male organ, e.g., which made their questions confusing, and me nervous to see them --yes--blushing).

In the end, they classified the crime as "Forcible Touching," a misdemeanor. This is the same thing that e.g., men at the Puerto Rican Parade festivities were accused of years ago--running up to a woman and grabbing her, then running off.

I was not just casually grabbed in a crowd. This is not the part of the crime that is giving me flashbacks. The part that made me feel I was going to be raped or die was being forced into the woods. This is like kidnapping. I am 59 years old and if I were 8, or 16, I think this aspect of what happened to me would have been taken much more seriously. Was it my age? Or did the police minimize to cover their asses for not showing up for over 2 hours?

At any rate, my main concern now is that, because what happened to me was minimized, I fear our community will not get the notices warning people about the perpetrator and urging caution in the park. I am so worried about other women.

Please if anyone can tell me what further steps I can take, let me know.
Thanks.

debbien

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by asf_73 on Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:10 am

Thank you debbien for having the courage to come forth and share with us your incident. I have just put in a call with one of our members and she is going to coordinate running a patrol through Inwood Hill Park.

Please feel free and contact us if you should need anything.

Angel Figueroa
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by inwud on Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:18 am

Debbien,

Thank you for your post. The 34th precinct's response is unacceptable. I'm very sorry this has happened to you.
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Thank you and Bravo

Post by karlafisk on Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:59 am

Thank you for you bravery in the face of your sexual assault and your courage and persistence in demanding that the police step up and do their job.

I think it's a very good thing that Inwood neighbors are gathering and walking together to be a safe observant presence on the streets of the neighborhood, but I think we need to do more.

There are notorious long-term chronic issues with laziness, corruption, and incompetence in our local precinct. (I won't detail my personal experience here.) I know that many of us think that nothing can be done, but I disagree.

I don't have any experience with political organizing, but I do know that organized, calm, knowlegable, persistent pressure for change can work. My husband is a former Queens DA. He's knows how our local criminal justice system is organized.

Who would be interested in meeting to discuss how we can put direct pressure on the police to do their job?

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:06 am

I made posters in English and Spanish warning women to be careful given what happened to me. Am going back to the park today to get comfortable there again and hang the notices: You will see them around the neighborhood. I would like to contest the crime classification, upgrade it so more attention is paid to finding the perpetrator and warning the community. I would be interested in attending the meeting that karlafisk suggests.
Debbie

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by asf_73 on Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:21 am

It is clear that a culture of incompetence will not be tolerated. In a day and age where we, on a daily basis are asked to do more with less, how much more our elected official and police precinct should be doing. Instead of displaying confidence they demonstrate stupidity.

We hope that our dealing's with the Community Council and other local elected officials will change that culture.

Angel
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by lolitapop9 on Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:22 am

Debbie, I just sent you a private message. I hope you'll read it and get back to me with any questions you may have.

Lolitapop9
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by asf_73 on Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:33 am

debbien would you like some company when and if you go back to IHP? My wife and I would love to accompany you.

Angel Figueroa
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by ginavergel7 on Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:14 pm

Something very similar happened to me at a park in New Jersey in 1999 except this man "did his business" from a distance. I remember feeling like I was going to die because I was in a far part of the trail in the woods. I ran like hell to get back to the parking lot.

Although the detective that handled the case took it very seriously, the first responding patrol officer did not. Neither did my boss (it happened during my lunchtime walk.) I remember my boss said "He would have never hurt you. They are scared and that's why he ran away." My boss at the time was a woman and I was floored at her take!! Thanks for coming forward and warning others about this.

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by Inger on Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:26 pm

I am disgusted by the response of the NYPD! Although not terribly surprised, I might add.

Coming from another country, I can testify that this type of perpetrator was taken very seriously, even 30something years ago.
I repeatedly encountered men proudly displaying their "assets" (often a rather pitiful commodity) and on each incident was taken into the police station to look through their mug shot gallery of exhibitionists. I was cautioned to always run away from these perps and immediately call the police. I was told to never take an incident like this lightly, since for some of these guys this might just be the beginning of their criminal history and they might very well accelerate their crimes...

If this was known and communicated by small town cops in Germany in the 70ties - how come that New York's finest can't seem to get their asses into gear (pardon my french)???

How pressured are they to reduce crime - that they would rather turn a blind eye (if possible and not pressured or followed up or insisted on) than arrest the perps and get them off the streets?
Is ours a neighborhood that lends itself to the idea that it might be easier to meddle with the statistics rather than chasing after the criminals??? So far it seems they are getting away with it (or so it would seem to me).

Is anyone well connected to a press/media person (preferably tv for quick and big exposure), who is high enough on the food chain to ask some key people some tough questions? That's how I would handle this situation, but since I am not on my home turf, I'm feeling a bit helpless...

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by carlazanoni on Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:10 pm

Hi Inger,

The only way the media could help in this situation is if Debbie is willing to speak about this to a reporter, that could be me or someone I could put her in touch with...I have a few connections who might be interested in working on this story.

Carla


Inger wrote:
Is anyone well connected to a press/media person (preferably tv for quick and big exposure), who is high enough on the food chain to ask some key people some tough questions? That's how I would handle this situation, but since I am not on my home turf, I'm feeling a bit helpless...

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:20 pm

Yes I would be willing. I have already spoken to Manhattan Times.
Debbie

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by carlazanoni on Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:25 pm

Hi Debbie, I will reach out to The Manhattan Times. In the meantime, can you email me at carlazanoni at gmail dot com?

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by inwud on Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:23 pm

here is a link to the story by Manhattan Times that was sent out by Angel:

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I notice reading this that there is no mention at all by Capul of what the precinct is planning to do, or even an intention of doing something about this and/or the previous recent muggings, not to mention the lack of response by his officers.
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by inwud on Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:44 pm

there are police cruisers doing patrols in inwood hill park around the soccer field area where Debbien was attacked, as well as the peninsula area.
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by inwud on Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:10 pm

Police to “flood” Inwood Hill Park with patrols following attempted rape, from Manhattan Times


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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by lisadell on Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:29 pm

So I've been reading on Twitter that the police "flood" isn't much of a flood, more like one police car driving around for 20 minutes. This poor showing, along with the lack of response to Debbie's initial call(s), is completely and wholly insufficient. It is outrageous. I want to register my discontent with 34th precinct (and think others should too). Can anyone advise me the best way to do this (phone call, email, letter?), and to whom at the precinct these concerns would best be directed? What other public officials would be worth contacting -- Jackson? Espaillat? Thanks.

I'm also interested in finding out how the police are trained to deal with sexual assaults (if at all).

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Thank you!

Post by debbien on Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:09 am

The crime against me was upgraded today by the police from "forcible touch," a misdemeanor, to "attempted rape," a felony. I have no doubt this was done because of efforts by people on this list, as well as calls of inquiry to the police made by a Manhattan Times reporter. I am tremendously relieved that the crime is being taken seriously and the community will be notified and protected to a far, far greater extent than it looked like yesterday. I'm also really thankful for everyone's help. I am doing well, mainly because of all this concrete support. Thank you for this website and your civic safety work.
Debbie

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by natascha on Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:53 pm

i'm so sorry!! i'm really glad that it didn't go further and that you kept fighting the whole time. this can happen anytime, anywhere. as women we have to be on high alert at all times, i carry pepper spray and i'll use it. mace is illegal in nyc but pepper spray isn't, all women should carry some form of protection and keep our eyes peeled. what an ugly way to have to live, and all because we're women.

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by SD on Fri Feb 19, 2010 6:05 pm

I'm so sorry this happened, Debbie.

My experience with Dep. Inspector Capul and the 34th Precinct is that unless you really pester them, they will not show up or follow up on crimes. I won't waste time detailing my interactions with them, but two of them involved violent crimes in my building, and neither time did the 34th do their job. I also confronted Capul twice at precinct meetings and found him to be jaded and dismissive. So finally I contacted a former NYPD inspector and a former aid to Guiliani, I and asked them why this was happening. They indicated that apathy in the higher levels of the 34th was the explanation.

We need a new commanding officer in the 34th Precinct. I wonder if Eric Schneiderman or Scott Stringer could make this happen. Or if Brian Lehrer of WNYC might give this issue some air time. After all, I saw Brian Lehrer on the sledding hill the day before the attack - he could easily have been the parent who helped the victim.

There's no excuse for the NYPD's behavior up to this point. Let's make sure this isn't just another opportunity for Capul to quote CompStat and tell us how safe we are and what a great job he's doing.

SD

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by janetk10034 on Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:05 pm

This response by our local precinct is no surprise. Central Park has its own precinct. It is absurd to think that a police precinct caught up in the mammoth problems of Washington Heights can also keep us safe in Inwood Hill, Isham or Fort Tryon Park. Perhaps we need to focus on some suggestions for the Sunday night meeting with Capul, Rangel & Espaillat. I am brand new here on this forum, but not brand new in Inwood or on this planet. What happened to Sarah Fox in June 2004 and to Debbien this week needs to be addressed by the citizens of Inwood. Saturating Inwood Hill Park with police in cars and erecting "War Of the Worlds" style observation towers is a dramatic, but non-sustainable solution. We need to think and come up with workable solutions and then hold our public servants accountable for their implementation.

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Not shocked

Post by janabanana on Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:08 pm

I am so sorry this happened to you, Debbien. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am actually afraid to walk my dog on my own after 5pm now in our neighborhood, and I only stick to walking on Broadway/207 where there is constant foot traffic. When I first moved to Inwood over a year ago, I felt comfortable walking in the park on the jogging ring, even at dusk in the summer. After the last few recent crimes (one of which happened at the end of my block), I won't even go down Isham after 5pm when it starts to get dark.

Where can one legally buy pepper spray?? I would feel more comfortable if I had some. Although, having a family member in law enforcement in my home state down south, I know that it does not work on everyone, so still be careful, ladies.

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by inwud on Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:28 pm

janabanana wrote:I am so sorry this happened to you, Debbien. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am actually afraid to walk my dog on my own after 5pm now in our neighborhood, and I only stick to walking on Broadway/207 where there is constant foot traffic. When I first moved to Inwood over a year ago, I felt comfortable walking in the park on the jogging ring, even at dusk in the summer. After the last few recent crimes (one of which happened at the end of my block), I won't even go down Isham after 5pm when it starts to get dark.

Where can one legally buy pepper spray?? I would feel more comfortable if I had some. Although, having a family member in law enforcement in my home state down south, I know that it does not work on everyone, so still be careful, ladies.

for what its worth, the ring around the soccer field in inwood hill park currently has three police cars or three wheeled carts going around the ring. its probably the safest its ever been right now.
i have purchased pepper spray here: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] I
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by asf_73 on Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:31 pm

janetk10034 Thanks for your comments. It's unfortunate, but the sad reality is that after a couple of days they will disappear; and what do we do when that happens. If you can make one recommendation to them , what would that be?

I would love to hear what you have to say

Angel
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some ideas (right off the top of my head)...

Post by janetk10034 on Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:37 pm

1) Immediate (re) training of all officers who responded to this complaint and handled it so badly: a-not responding promptly to multiple calls while the victim was in a safe/supportive environment and allowing the perpetrator ample time to leave the vicinity
b-lacking clear direction as to their next step, despite a supervisor being present
c-becoming rattled by the use of the word P-E-N-I-S

2) Setting up a temporary command station on Isham & Seaman (when they bungled Sarah's investigation so hideously, they left a police bus there for several weeks). While this temporary solution is in place, Capul needs to investigate a more permanent station in the vicinity and report back to us in a set time frame about the progress. When this is accomplished, our public servants can investigate other options and report back in a set time frame (i.e. officers on bikes/horses, using the park structure as a sub-station of the 34).

Give me some more time...will cough up more ideas. I know my neighbors...we are a smart bunch. We are not tethered to a system that hinders out-of-the-box thinking. TOGETHER WE CAN!

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