Rape shocks Garden District 

Neighborhood considered safe

The report of a kidnapping and rape in a quiet Garden District neighborhood has shocked residents and visitors to the community who say they’ve typically felt safe in the area.

New Orleans police reported that shortly before 7 p.m. Monday, a 30-year-old woman was abducted from in front of her home at gunpoint, forced into another vehicle and raped by three men as they drove around the city. Police say the woman was abducted in the 1200 block of Eighth Street and then dropped off at that location again by the suspects.

The victim reported that the men stole the keys to her 1999 silver, four-door Honda Accord with a Louisiana license plate of OUZ831. They left the area in her vehicle and the vehicle they arrived in, police said. The victim was treated for bruises and scratches at a local hospital and then released. Police have only released general descriptions of the suspects identifying them as black men in their 20s or 30s.

Residents in the neighborhood, which is about two blocks from Magazine Street, were dismayed by the incident and said it’s highly unusual for the quiet community with its neat porches and heavy foot traffic. There seemed to be little change in most people’s routines Tuesday as joggers, walkers and customers came through the neighborhood regularly.

Marie Mussman was visiting her parents’ home on Tuesday and hadn’t heard about the incident until approached by a reporter. She was clearly surprised, although she notes that she typically has someone walk her to her car whenever she visits. Mussman said her parents have reported minor complaints about burglaries in the area, and she’s heard from friends that the neighborhood on the other side of Magazine has issues with unruly drunks. But she said she’s never heard of anything as serious as rape or kidnapping.

“What I hear is that it’s block-by-block around here,” said Mussman about safety in the area. “I’m always careful at night.”

Francesca Brennan, a friend of the victim, said it’s impossible not to be changed to some degree by such a terrible incident. Brennan said her friend was abducted while getting out of her car, something people in the neighborhood do all the time as they bring in groceries or pets.

“It could have happened to any of us,” she said. “Something like this changes your life, changes your perspective.”

But Brennan added that she still believes the community is safe. Many residents know each other and feel comfortable in the area at night. In addition, the neighborhood is part of the Garden District Security District and is patrolled by private patrols. Brennan noted that once when she went out of town for a few days, those security officers put a note on her car asking if she was OK because the vehicle hadn’t moved in a while. Even car burglaries are fairly infrequent, and many residents have security cameras installed on their homes, she added.

“It’s a safe neighborhood,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the victim lives with her boyfriend in the area and has a support group to help her deal with the incident. Some of her friends were planning to hold a special dinner on Tuesday night to provide moral support.