Groping Attack Victims Host Rally; Safety Seminar Held
What started out as a single post on a local Web site WhyLeaveAstoria.com (WLA) about a woman who was groped by a man riding a bicycle, culminated in 45 women coming out with their shared experiences, two arrests and a rally organized by two of the victims to speak out against sexual harassment and abuse.
Kate Salute and Michelle Gutmann, the original bloggers, formed Astoria Against Violence and organized the rally held on August 18 at Athens Square Park, where they were joined by Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Safe Horizon, the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention (SAVI) Program, the New York Anti-Crime Agency, self defense experts and other community organizations.
Salute and Gutmann were instrumental in helping police compile a sketch of one of the suspects, who was arrested on July 19, shortly after the first post appeared on the Web. Vallone, who was also made aware of these happenings by the accounts on WLA, immediately intervened and encouraged Astoria residents who may have been victims of these crimes to alert police.
In addition to planning the rally, which was unfortunately cancelled midway through due to heavy rain, Salute and Gutmann also started an online survey in which they collected useful information from other women who were involved in groping attacks.
“This rally and the hard work of Michelle and Kate remind us that our community has plenty of resources and immediate help if we ever need it. Our precinct acted quickly and efficiently and our community leaders came out in force to combat this problem. But most importantly, the strong women of Astoria banned together and sent an equally strong message that we will not tolerate this criminal and abhorrent behavior,” Vallone said.
Antonio Meloni, longtime self-defense expert and community advocate, held a seminar on practical safety tips and techniques, where he was joined by Vallone, Safe Horizon and Crime Prevention Officer John Glynn of the 114th Precinct. Over 50 women were in attendance at the Immaculate Conception School on August 17th.
Meloni, president of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, organized the seminar to help provide answers for anyone who may ever encounter a threatening or criminal situation. He also demonstrated a few self-defense techniques, and pointed to several household items like flashlights and pens that could be used to fight off attackers.
Starting in September the New York Anti-Crime Agency will host a series of self-defense courses in Astoria. For further information call Meloni at 718-274- 4926, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.