ROGERS PARK — "Brave" was among several words of praise friends and family had for a 22-year-old who was raped exactly one month ago and chose to publicly speak out on the unsolved crime Sunday afternoon.
Alexandria Clarke, a Loyola University graduate, reported she was forced by the neck from a bus stop bench and sexually assaulted in a nearby alley May 2 in the 6300 block of North Clark Street in Edgewater.
Clarke and her mother, Renee Touchton, said they went public because they wanted to call direct attention to the crime and its perpetrator, a man still on the loose. DNAinfo.com Chicago generally does not name victims of sexual assault.
It's the rapist who should feel ashamed, Clarke said, "A crime is a crime."
"I didn't want to deal with it all at first," she said, accompanied by her mother and her best friend, Sandra Al-Sakkal, 23, who added that "If even one positive thing comes from this nightmare" it's that Clarke speaking out could save lives.
"If we don't speak out, he gets away with it," Clarke's mother said.
Touchton has, in fact, become a force for rape prevention advocacy in the month since her daughter's rape. She has spoken extensively to local media about the unsolved crime, offered a $5,000 reward and has been by her daughter's side through hospital visits and lab work, she said.
And when the Guardian Angels offered to host a private self-defense class to Clarke's family and friends, Touchton decided to invite the whole community.
Miguel Fuentes, Chicago chapter leader and national director of the Guardian Angels, said the event was the first time the nonprofit group, which patrols neighborhoods to deter crime, has had the opportunity to work in conjunction with the family of such a devastating crime.
"[Clarke] is very courageous — and it's only been a month," Fuentes said. "Most people don't know who to contact or how — they have no idea how to prepare or what to expect."
To alleviate those concerns, the Guardian Angels provide awareness campaigns and self-defense training to groups around the city.
"We're there for people," Fuentes said, as he prepared for Thursday's training course in which about 30 people of all ages came to learn how to prepare for "the worst-case scenario."
Video of the group's self-defense courses and information on how to protect against assault can be found on the Guardian Angels' website.
As Clarke watched friends and supporters volunteer to enact "defense from the ground" and "bear hug escape" techniques, she traded smiles and laughter with Al-Sakkal, who hadn't left her friend's side all afternoon.
Clarke is recovering, but said she hasn't taken public transportation since she the day of the assault.
"We're on a break," she said of the city's public transportation network. "We're not breaking up, but we're definitely on a break."
Clark said the one thing she wants people to know is that it's never toi early to prepare for the worst. She said there was nothing she could have done to stop the man who sat beside her at the bus stop — described as a 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-11, 300-pound black male of dark complexion with short black hair, wearing a white polo shirt and jeans — but she urged others to "be aware."
"My memory of his voice is better [than what he said]," she said, recounting the moments of shock and terror in which she felt immobilized. "At the time, you're not thinking."
Taking a public stand against violence is Clarke's way of making sure that "even one more person knows" how to defend his or her self, Clarke's mother said.
Representatives from Rape Victims Advocates provided information on support groups for rape victims Sunday.
Police are asking anyone with information about the assault to call detectives at 312-744-8261.