Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), along with community members and other elected officials met at the 71st-Continental Avenue subway stop Tuesday to rally together and raise awareness of the sexual assaults in Forest Park and Elmhurst — but the crowd received some good news at the last minute.
“We were originally going to meet today to ask the people of Queens County to help us in the search of a man wanted for attempted rape,” Quinn said as she held up a sketch of the perpetrator. “But the great news is the perpetrator who attacked a woman in park not too far from here has been captured.”
The crowd erupted in applause when they learned of the arrest of Richard Kassebaum of Howard Beach, who allegedly tased a victim who was jogging through Forest Park on March 29, dragged her off a path and attempted to rape her but failed after she regained her senses and fought back.
“Every rape is a bad rape but this particular incident involved a taser which is a particularly aggressive way to attack a victim,” Quinn said. “But now, thanks to the NYPD officers, the women and girls of Queens are safer than they were just a few short hours ago.”
“I am totally relieved that this person was caught,” Koslowitz said. “People in this area were scared and wanted to know what was going on, but now that he has been captured, they can feel safer.”
Another perpetrator, who attacked a 41-year-old woman on Monday morning near Corona Avenue in Elmhurst, by threatening to stab her with a knife and dragging her to a nearby cemetery and sexually assaulting her, is still at large.
In an effort to better prepare women who may find themselves in a unsafe situation, Quinn, Koslowitz and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) have partnered with the Center for Anti-Violence Education to hold a free self-defense class.
“This is probably the third or fourth class we’ve held in Queens and as more and more reports of rape and attempted rape come out, we want to make sure girls and women know how to protect themselves, how to use their voice and how to do everything they can to stay safe,” Quinn said.
Jenny DeBower, the program director for the Center for Anti-Violence, noted the importance of women learning self-defense.
“For us it’s really about getting people to feel strong, feeling that they can do something and that they can take action,” she said. “We’ve found people who are victims have been physically attacked, so it’s important to do physical self-defense training to help them feel strong and safe again.”
DeBower cited the attack in Forest Park as an example of how self defense can aid women.
“She fought back and got away and that’s something we hope this self-defense class can do for others who may be victimized,” she said.
The class will be held in room 213 at Queens Borough Hall, at 120-55 Queens Blvd., on Tuesday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m. It is offered to anyone over 13 years old.
Those who wish to attend the class may RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (212) 788-5613.