The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

After Uptown Attacks, Women Vow to Fight Back

By Carla Zanoni | September 6, 2011 6:41am

INWOOD — The alleged rape of a woman by an off-duty cop has left the people of northern Manhattan shaken.

But it's also left lnwood residents determind to learn how to fight back.

Just two weeks after the attack, more than 50 local women packed a free self-defense class less than a block away from where the rape allegedly happened.

“I’m fed up, and I’m not going to let this frighten me anymore,” said one woman attending the class who asked to remain anonymous. “This is my neighborhood, my home, nobody is going to take that away from me.” 

DNAinfo was invited to attend the session, but was asked to not show any of the participant’s faces in photographs to protect the women’s privacy. All women interviewed asked to keep their last names private.

The women, who ranged from teenagers to senior citizens, walked four flights of stairs to take the class led by members of the Guardian Angels in a classroom on the fourth floor of Northeastern Academy, a private school on 215th Street.

Although several classes like last week’s have been hosted in Inwood since November in response to a rash of violence against women in Inwood Hill Park, last week’s class included at least five times as many attendees as previous classes.

“I knew about the other incidents, but there is something terrifying about having this happen in our back yard in broad daylight,” said a woman named Anna, referring to the Aug. 19 incident in which Police Officer Michael Pena allegedly raped an Inwood woman.

"It's more of a concern now," said another attendee, "and even more that it was a policeman."

The class, sponsored by State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, taught participants basic moves to fend off a would-be attacker.

"We wanted to do something proactive, give women a step to take to protect themselves," said Ibrahim Khan, Espailalt's deputy chief of staff.

The office plans to hold more classes in the future.

Many of the techniques taught focused on catching an assailant off-guard by screaming in his or her face and quickly identifying weaknesses to bring the attacker down with a strategic punch or twist of the arm.

But part of fighting back means being smart, said Milton Oliver, who volunteered his time along with his wife Silvia and colleague Ulises Al-Amin.

“If he comes up to you with a gun, all bets are off,” he said. “Hand over your money, your bag.”

“What if he’s not after your bag?” one woman asked. “What if he’s after you?”

That’s when instinct really comes into play, according to the Oliver.

“Wait for the right moment to strike,” he said. “You’ll know it when it comes.”