The first lady called for reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act, saying: "We need to ...provide the better training and resources and sensitivity to police, judges and public officials that will enable them to respond quickly and understand that it is not just some kind of prank."
She added: "When violence like this occurs we have to clearly say that any violence against women is a crime and must be taken seriously."
At least 24 girls and women, including four tourists, have told police they were attacked Sunday in Central Park by bands of young men who sprayed them with water guns, tore their clothes and sexually molested them.
While most of the victims were assisted by police, at least two women said cops did nothing to help when they reported what had happened to them. Police Commissioner Howard Safir has vowed to fire any cop who responded indifferently to the women's pleas for help.
Speaking to 1,100 professional women gathered at a breakfast fund-raiser for her campaign at the Waldorf-Astoria, Clinton described the attacks as "women being the targets of abuse and violence, of being disrespected and demeaned because they were women. Women going about the business of their lives, Rollerblading through the park, walking with a new husband, taking a shortcut, enjoying the day. They were singled out for the kind of abuse that can only come from a fundamental disrespect for us as women."
The Violence Against Women Act provides funds to shelters for battered women and recognizes crimes of gender-motivated violence as serious crimes. Congress has stalled for a year on reauthorizing the act.