Responding to Serial Rapist

Self defense classes will be offered free at Savannah's Rape Crisis Center Oct. 4 and 5.
Self defense classes will be offered free at Savannah's Rape Crisis Center Oct. 4 and 5.

The search for a serial rapist continues in the Coastal Empire. The man pictured here in a police sketch is the one they want to find. Police believe he has raped four women in the area since August 31. Three of the rapes happened in Savannah. The latest attacked happened in Richmond Hill.

Police say the suspect uses a gun to force women to drive to a secluded location and then rapes them. The rapist may be driving a white Chrysler sedan, Dodge Intrepid or Stratus. If you have any information about where he is, call the police.

What would you do if you were approached by the serial rapist? That's a question a lot of people are asking themselves. WTOC spoke with several people who live or work in Savannah. Everyone has something to say about this man. A lot of people are nervous, others downright scared.

We've received a few emails from people who think the solution to dealing with a serial rapist is to carry a gun. One man says it's the fastest way to decrease rapes in an area. And one woman wrote, "the best tool for self defense for stopping an attacker is a firearm."

Many people think there are other tools we should use to protect ourselves.

"In the car down here today, we had the discussion about, 'Let's all stick together because you're not sure what's going to happen or where he is or who he is for that matter,'" Julie Clifton told us. She and her friends are visiting Savannah from Statesboro today.

"I just think you have to be careful," Clifton said. That, she says, doesn't include carrying a gun.

Devita Dunston of Rincon believes it would do her more harm than good. "No, no, no, I'd probably shoot myself, that's not an option for me, for some women maybe it is, but no."

Many women are opting for self-defense classes. "Well the phones have been ringing off the hook," said Mary McAlister of the Rape Crisis Center in Savannah (912.233.3000). The center is sponsoring its next free workshop on October 4 and 5.

"We usually have only about 30 people," said McAlister. "We already have 60 people, but we aren't going to turn anyone away because I know people are anxious for the information we give."

Information is what Savannah-Chatham police say is the magic word. "The best weapon for self-defense is not a gun, not a knife, not a Taser," said police spokesman Bucky Burnsed. "The best weapon for self-defense is information."

We also spoke with a few gun shops in town to see if sales were up. The answer, not really. But one store on Savannah's south side said it did sell four handguns to women this week alone. And they sold out of pepper spray.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com