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Class Led by Police Gives Tips on How to Avoid Rape : Self-defense: The San Clemente department had to turn away some of the many who wanted to attend.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A standing-room-only crowd of mostly women packed a meeting hall Monday night to learn how to protect themselves from a serial rapist still at large.

When about 160 people arrived for the workshop in the San Clemente Community Center, which can only accommodate half that number, organizers took names of those turned away and promised to schedule two more workshops this week.

San Clemente Police Sgt. Richard Downing said his department organized the workshop after it received a flood of inquiries from residents.

“The entire community is quite concerned,” Downing said. “We are feeling the concern and fears of everyone.”

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Jan Sener, a community services officer who studied rape-prevention in an FBI course, advised the members of the audience to keep their doors and windows locked at all times, and she also suggested keeping outdoor lights on at night.

She also said that the rapist “picks out” his victims.

“He is looking for someone who is not assertive, someone who projects a low self-esteem.” Even the way a woman walks can make a difference, she said. She advised standing up straight, walking with confidence and making eye contact with all passers-by.

“The ability to say exactly how you feel at all times makes a big difference. This way, you set up a self-confident image. Most people will realize you are not someone who can be easily controlled.”

Investigators say they believe the same man is responsible for the series of four attacks that began last October. Gun stores in the area have reported a sharp increase in the number of female customers asking about handguns, stun guns and tear-gas spray. In addition, Sener said, local self-defense schools have begun offering more classes.

Sener and other members of the Police Department distributed handouts Monday night suggesting that people consider taking self-defense courses and buying tear-gas spray and a whistle that lets out what Sener described as a “hellacious” shriek.

Sener said she would not recommend guns for anyone not familiar with them.

“With guns, you have to have practice and precision,” Sener said. “You could mistakenly kill a family member that way. . . . The best line of self-defense is knowing that you could be a victim . . . do not be caught by surprise.”

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Another drawback of a gun, Downing said, is that the attacker might take it away.

Michal Heller, education director of the Orange County Central Assault Network, a support group for rape victims, said: “It is a very fearful situation knowing a violent crime has occurred in the area and feeling very helpless about it. I don’t believe there will be peace of mind in San Clemente until the rapist is caught.”

Two teen-agers who attended the seminar said they are angry that the community must be afraid.

“It makes me mad every time I hear about another (rape) story,” said Katie Brosche, 16. “I take a class at night during the week, and I don’t feel comfortable walking around by myself any more. I came here because I want to know how to defend myself.”

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Her friend Molly Walsh, also 16, said she “used to always go running down on the beach or ride my bike at night by myself, but I’m not going to be doing that anymore.”

Three of the four attacks occurred in the Broadmoor subdivision overlooking San Clemente High School. The other took place in the Pier Bowl area.

The rapist’s methods were nearly identical in each case, police say. On entering the house, the rapist rushes to cover the victim’s eyes. He then uses material found inside the house to bind, gag and blindfold her.

The first attack occurred in October. A 29-year-old homeless woman whom police described as mentally retarded was kidnaped as she was walking on Avenida Pico near Interstate 5. The attacker took her to a vacant apartment in Dana Point, where she was raped.

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The second attack occurred in November, when a 13-year-old who was home alone was assaulted.

The third was Feb. 4, when a 19-year-old woman was attacked just after she had turned off the lights in her home to go to sleep. Two weeks later, a woman was attacked about 1:15 a.m. inside her Avenida Del Mar apartment moments after she had returned home from work.

Downing said Monday that investigators have no suspect.


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