Don't wear short skirts -- you could get raped.
That's essentially the advice the New York Police Department is giving young women in one Brooklyn neighborhood following a slew of unsolved sexual attacks in the past few months.
The warnings are being met with outrage, with residents saying police should be focusing on catching the suspects, not criticizing women for what they choose to wear.
One South Park Slope resident told the Wall Street Journal about an encounter she had with an NYPD officer this past week:
Lauren, a South Slope resident, was walking home three blocks from the gym on Monday when she was stopped.
The 25-year-old, who did not want her last name to be used, was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when she claims a police officer asked if she would stop and talk to him. He also stopped two other women wearing dresses.
According to Lauren, the officer asked if they knew what was going on in the neighborhood. When they answered in the affirmative, he asked if they knew what the guy was looking for.
"He pointed at my outfit and said, 'Don't you think your shorts are a little short?'" she recalled. "He pointed at their dresses and said they were showing a lot of skin."
He said that such clothing could make the suspect think he had "easy access," said Lauren.
She said the officer explained that "you're exactly the kind of girl this guy is targeting."
Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne defended the warnings, telling the Journal in an email they're "simply pointing out that as part of a pattern involving one or men that the assailant(s) have targeted women wearing skirts."
"Officers are not telling women what not to wear — there's a TV series that does that," he said.
But Jessica Silk, a founder of Safe Slope, a neighborhood group that formed in response to the recent attacks, called the approach "completely inappropriate."
"There have been reports that the women attacked were all wearing skirts," she said. "Unfortunately this might be a common link between the women that were attacked but the message shouldn't be that you shouldn't wear a skirt. The message should be that, 'Here are ways that you can protect yourself.'"
Members of the community have been proactive in the wake of the attacks: In addition to Safe Slope, a campaign called the Brooklyn Bike Patrol also formed to escort women in the area home from the subway and local city council members funded a one-day self-defense class for residents.
Still, not everyone thinks the NYPD warnings are completely out of line.
Shannon Sharpe, a local resident, told the Journal that she's stopped wearing high heels to work because it would be harder to run in them if she were being chased. She said she hasn't changed her clothing habits because she doesn't really wear anything revealing to work, but said "if I did, then maybe I'd be more conscious of that."
"It's frustrating because there's probably something true to that," she said of certain types of clothing attracting assailants' attention.
Lauren completely disagreed.
"Where do you draw the line? I can't wear shorts? Besides the fact that I wasn't wearing anything that was inappropriate or provocative….I don't think that should be part of the problem. At all."