Naomi Adiv

PhD Student in Geography

CUNY Graduate Center

Notes on Newspaper Reports of Sexual Assault
in New York City Public Swimming Pools, 1993 – 1996

A New York Times headline from July 7, 1993 reads “A Menacing Ritual is Called Common in New York Pools.”  While the language might not betray it, the article addresses a series of sexual assaults in New York City public swimming pools in which groups of young men surrounded and attacked young women in the water and, depending on the case, taunted them, tried to remove pieces of their bathing suits and, in the worst cases, assaulted them. Along with these group attacks, other cases of molestation and sexual assault in the city’s pools and locker rooms would become linked as a singular phenomenon in which the public swimming pool was portrayed as an exceptionally dangerous place. In this preliminary piece of research, I would like to consider the ways in which the public swimming pool was constructed as a dangerous place through reporting this series of assaults.  What about the space, in the rhetoric, made these crimes possible?  What is the difference between the language used to describe this problem as one of sexual violence versus one of public safety? How did different people in power frame this problem and how were those ideas portrayed in the media?

Naomi Adiv holds a BA in Peace and Conflict Studeis from UC-Berkeley, and an MS in Community Development from UC-Davis. She is currently conducting ethnographic and archival research on public swimming pools in New York City for her dissertation: The Amphibious Public, as well as teaching the Geography of Public Space at Hunter College. Prior to graduate school, Naomi worked largely in youth development through summer camps and after-school programs, and sees her academic work as an extension of what she learned in those settings.

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