Nearly two dozen women claim they have been attacked by a man dubbed the Springfield groper. He's still on the loose, but a group of women gathered Saturday to learn how to fight back.
The groper seems to be getting bolder. His last known attack was in broad daylight just hours before police held a community meeting. Now a retired Fairfax County police officer is teaching women how to protect themselves.
One by one the women filed into Crestwood Elementary School for an early morning self-defense class designed to help them fend off the Springfield groper, who has been preying on women in Fairfax County for months.
"There's always been that fear the attacks would escalate. That's the last thing that anybody wants to have happen," says Frank Cresswell, a security instructor.
The serial groper is believed to have struck 23 times since last fall, mostly grabbing unsuspecting women from behind. Police have released a composite sketch, but are unsure if they're looking for one or more suspects.
The instructors are teaching the women the "stun and run" technique, buying them time to get away from an attacker. They're also telling them to abandon any notion of being polite.
"Women get in trouble because they don't want to say anything and get embarrassed. They don't want to use their big voice and draw attention to themselves," Cresswell says.
The instructors give the women tools they hope they'll never have to use.
What has so many in that community on edge is that the groper has eluded police for so long. They suspect he may live among them.