Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:32 am

Here are the problems I encountered after I was assaulted:

1) 911 seems to have mistakenly reported my call, five minutes after the attempted rape, as something less serious, or perhaps they mistakenly thought it had happened the previous day. (They indicated that when I calle a second time). Something really screwed up and I don't know why.
2) After the police correctly understood the facts of the incident from my 2nd 911 call, 45 minutes after the first one, they still didn't come to take a report.
3) When they did come they interviewed me in an unprofessional manner.
4) They classified the crime incorrectly, using a classification that ignored the kidnapping aspects. They minimized the crime, calling a felony a misdemeanor.

The questions raised by what happened are:

1)What's the problem with 911 and how can it be corrected?
2) Why did the police not come on the second 911 call, not to mention the first?
3) How are 34th Pct. officers trained -- or not -- to responde to sex crime calls?
4) Why was the crime classification minimized? Special Victims Unit seems to have been instrumental.
So there are three entities involved: 911, 34th Pct., and SVU.
Perhaps the first thing to demand around this incident is that an internal investigation be done and made available to the community. I wonder if I should also report it to the civilian agency that takes complaints of police misconduct?

I went out with two SVU detectives yesterday to review the crime scene. It was clear that if the police had responded immediately after I called them, there's a good chance they could have caught the perpetrator. He needed to exit the woods that he ran off into, and there are only a few exits. SVU identified them yesterday with me in tow. If the cops had done this at 5:55 p.m. on Wednesday they could likely have nabbed the kid coming out. That's the reason I stayed in the park after I was attacked, to help them, though I was a basket case. If this group does nothing else they should focus on the lack of immediate response.

My sense after spending 8 years in the park is that it's actually not dangerous these days in the open sections if you remove this one perpetrator from the mix. The cops totally blew it on Wednesday evening and I doubt they'll catch him till there's another incident. It breaks my heart to think someone else might have to suffer this, or much worse, to catch the guy.

I would be glad to speak at the Sunday meeting but at this point, I am only in a position to ask for answers to my questions.

Debbie

debbien

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Join date : 2010-02-18

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:48 am

I forgot to say also that an immediate demand everyone should make is that the 34th Pct. flyer the hood with Public Safety notices giving a brief description of the crime and alerting women to be careful in the park.

The answer I keep getting from police when I ask for this is: (1)" You didn't see his face so we can't do a sketch and there's no flyer w/o a sketch." Then, when I protest that the police recently put up a flyer warning about the Isham Park muggers without a sketch, (2)"Well, there is more than one incident with those muggers and yours is only a single time."

So at the very least, this is a concrete and easily realizable demand.

debbien

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:08 pm

I prepared a statement that I plan to read at the meeting on Broadway tomorrow. It's very long but I'm going to post it below in hopes that it helps people from the community to have some talking points to organize around. These are my demands of the police and 911 based on what happened to me:

**

Statement of Debbie Nathan
Victim of attempted rape in Inwood Hill Park on February 17

I am the victim of the incident which motivated this meeting. Here is what happened to me:

I was walking around the jogging and walking “ring” that abuts the woods, when I was grabbed from behind by a male who would not let me go. He told me he wanted to have sex with me and pushed me off the “ring” into the woods. Continuing to hold me from behind and push me farther into the woods, he masturbated against my backside. He then let go of me and ran off into the woods. The incident lasted about two minutes.

This was a very frightening experience. I literally spent two minutes thinking I was the next Sarah Fox—the woman murdered in the park seven years ago.

As soon as I was freed I ran to a part of the park where there were people. I borrowed a cell phone and called 911. Not five minutes had passed since my attacker fled into the woods. It was still light enough out that police could have come immediately and surveilled the park exits out of the woods. There was a decent opportunity of catching the perpetrator coming out.

I told 911 I would wait at the Indian Road Café for the police so I could help them catch my attacker. I waited over a half hour and they never came. I was terrified of walking home and had to ask a café customer to walk with me. I called 911 when I got home and changed the report address to mine. The 911 operator said it might take a long time for someone to come. Five minutes later 911 called again and asked when the crime occurred. “Forty-five minutes ago,” I said. “Oh!” she said. “We thought it was yesterday. We’ll have police immediately, like in five minutes.” Another 45 minutes went by and no police came.

I called Safe Horizons, the rape crisis center. They called EMS. EMS came, took a report and called the police. Suddenly, eight offficers were in my house, including supervisors. That was six officers too many, in my opinion.

The police spent an hour and a half interviewing me, going over and over the same material. They did not write down very much. They were completely unfamiliar with the layout of the park and did not seem to understand the concept of "woods." They seemed to think I was attacked near Broadway St. The female officer asked me a question that made no sense, apparently because she was embarrassed to use words that must be used to describe a sexual assault: “penis,” for instance. That word made her blush. Her embarrassment around sexual assault reporting logistics seemed unprofessional, which made me uneasy.

The officers said they did not know how to classify the crime. After much time on the phone with SVU, they classed it as “forcible touch.” I repeatedly stressed that I’d been overpowered and dragged into the woods, that the perpetrator talked about sex, while masturbating, and that this was not quick touch but a fairly long incident of being overpowered and masturbated against–in an isolated place I could not escape from. I argued that “forcible touching” did not encompass the most violent and traumatic aspects of the crime against me. But “forcible touching” remained the classification.

This greatly disturbed me, because it meant no significant attention would be paid to the threat of other women being overpowered by the same perpetrator, nor would the community be notified by the police to exercise caution.

Because of the way this incident was handled, I want the Police Department, Inwood’s political representatives, and 911 to take these five actions:

1. Investigate the breakdown in communications by 911 during my first call, implement a solution for the future, and inform the community of the nature of the problem and the proposed solution
2. Investigate failure by police to take a report for over two hours. Explain the problem and implement a solution. Notify the community of the details.
3. Investigate apparent insufficient training for 34th Pct. Officers on handling reports of sexual assaults. Implement solutions. Inform the community.
4. Investigate why an “attempted rape” felony incident was incorrectly downgraded to misdemeanor “forcible touching.” Implement solutions for future classification practice. Inform the community of the cause of the problem and steps taken to remedy it.
5. Have the 34th Pct. post “Public Safety” flyers, notifying the community of the crime and encouraging women to be cautious in the park

Civilians in Inwood were wonderfully helpful to me in the hours after the attack. Unfortunately, the law enforcement and safety agencies that I support with my taxes were not. This is a terrible and unacceptable situation for our community. It needs to be taken seriously and corrected to the greatest extent possible.

Debbie Nathan
Inwood
(I will have a contact phone on the statement)

debbien

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by SD on Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:14 pm

Debbie, I think your account of what happened and your ideas are great. There is one thing that could be added though: Inwood Hill park is not well-patrolled and safe in the first place. I've always wondered what would happen if someone was attacked in the woods and tried to use their cell phone to call police - how would they identify their location? There are no call boxes or markers.

I've heard the argument that Inwood Hill park is so big that there's no way to make the woods completely safe. This is an argument for doing nothing. I've hiked in parks all over the country that have some way to contact police, and some way for the hiker to identify their location.

Also, I'm just now remembering that an Inwood resident was mugged in the park by men with a stun-gun either early last year or in late 2008, and as I recall the police were late to arrive and then treated the victim with suspicion and disbelief. This was written about on the DINAction (Dyckman Inwood Noise Action) Yahoo group's board. This police response is not an aberration, it's a pattern.

Thanks again for speaking out about this - hopefully it will make all of us safer.

SD

SD

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:24 pm

I would be willing to come 1/2 hour early to the meeting and powwow with anyone who wants to do add to the safety issues I listed, and who wants to approach the meeting organizers and tell them we want 10 minutes to speak. I think it's important for activists on this forum to have as organized a presence as possible. I like the idea of trying to make the park more safe on a permanent basis rather than settling for the 30-day drama that's out there now and will soon be gone. Patrol issues and marker sound very important -- in fact, the police had no idea where I was talking about when I told them where I was and what had happened to me.

Can we organize people on this list to prioritize items considered important? I don't have to say all my stuff because I am handing out a written statement. Mine would probably take 5 minutes but I could give up time. Don't know how much time to demand...I prefer to maintain my role as the victim of the crime and not the leader of this group. I don't have time anyway to take that on! Thanks. I will come 30 min. early though.
Debbie

debbien

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by carlazanoni on Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:31 pm

I am happy to come early and help organize. I'll be there at 6:30 p.m.

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by Linnie_Inwood on Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:06 pm

Debbie,

You are a brave woman and a role model for all woman who stay silent after an assault. I am a survivor of sexual abuse and I will support you emotionally as best I can.

I ,too, will come early to help organize.
avatar
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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by janetk10034 on Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:11 pm

Debbie,
I will come early. There are ways to identify exactly where you are in a city park...did a little research last night and found that in Central Park, lamp-posts have their locations tagged on them. I also found some very interesting statistics, which are now printed and ready for distribution at this meeting.
I will be the woman with the cane and the sassy attitude. We will know who Debbie is, because she will be "smack-dab" in the middle of people giving her support and love.
See you all there and looking forward to sharing of our ideas.
I love you

janetk10034

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by debbien on Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:27 pm

I am short, with brown glasses and short brown hair. Wearing black pants, a purple scarf and long navy coat. See you!
Debbie

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

Post by marnav on Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:49 pm

I saw 2 not so nice looking guys in my building basement that night, they had no reason to be there that night. I can give some description of them. If you Debbie tell me how the attacker looked like. Maybe a sketch can be drawn. It caught my attention because the African American male had a tan jacket. there was a Latin man with a long pony tail. As a woman who takes the train and walk to indian road, I do not feel safe at all. My car was already affected. My side mirrors were taken last year. We need to unite and make the neighborhood safe for all of us.

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Re: Sexual assault in Inwood Hill Park

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