Additionally, Gillian Greensite has written the following piece about how the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women has strayed from its charge:
Start by Believing
The city Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women has decided to weigh in on the highly charged issue of censoring council members Glover and Krohn for one instance each of violating the city’s Respectful Workplace Conduct Policy. In a recent opinion piece to the Sentinel, the chair of the Commission, Kevin Grossman attacks Krohn for not attempting to stop “victim shaming” comments from some members of the audience towards staff members (the victims) who spoke at the last council meeting. Apart from the fact that Krohn said he didn’t realize it was going on and apart from the fact that it’s the Mayor’s job to keep order, the Commission is fomenting this issue which is not its mandate. There is nothing in Ordinance 81-29, which created the Commission that gives it authority to involve itself in workplace conduct issues outside of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence and stalking. None of these issues is involved in the charges against the two council members.
The Commission was established as a result of a citizen’s Initiative in 1981 and as such is unique. Its powers and duties include recommending a comprehensive plan for the prevention of rape and domestic violence in the city of Santa Cruz, hearing citizens’ complaints about city police department service to women who have been raped or battered and making recommendations about police training and service. One entry in the Ordinance states that the prevention of rape and domestic violence shall be one of the city’s highest priorities. Not that that has ever happened. As one of the co-founders of the Commission, its first chair in 1982 and chair again in 2004 and 2005, I was unceremoniously dumped from reappointment after uncovering serious neglect and malpractice on behalf of the SCPD towards those who reported rape. This research was met with hostile pushback from the police and indifference from the council of the time. As I pushed back harder, staff to the commission accused me of bullying but couldn’t remember any examples when I met with her and her supervisor. Nonetheless, this was sufficient for council member Mathews to block any further appointment of me to the Commission to this day.
Last year there were 34 rapes reported to SCPD. There have already been 52 domestic violence calls in Santa Cruz County received by emergency dispatchers from October 1st. to October 7th. ( October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month). Yet the Commission’s sole Sentinel opinion piece in years has nothing to do with these issues. Its topic is outrage about the tabling of a censure motion against Krohn and Glover. That all five who lodged complaints against the two male council members are women is suggestive but not in itself grounds for Commission involvement. No complainant approached the Commission for support and no complaint involved issues of sexual harassment, rape or domestic violence.
On its agenda for Wednesday October 9th the Commission is poised to discuss and vote on a policy labeled “Start by Believing.” I know the originator of this slogan and national program of the same name, retired Sergeant Joanne Archambault whom I brought to Santa Cruz to conduct training for SCPD in 2004. The slogan is a good one, confronting centuries of suspicion and disbelief towards women who report rape but in the hands of the current Commission majority I fear it will be a club to further bash the two male council members. The agenda report even situates it in “the political agenda on city council.” The report also states, “As a commission, we believe women.” It continues with the proposal that if a commissioner does not behave or make public statements in the framework of this principal, they need to step down from the Commission.
This is dangerous stuff if you believe in justice. By all means start by believing. But if the facts don’t support the accusation, then perhaps there was no crime committed. Innocent until proven guilty is not a tiresome technicality. To “believe women” as proof of guilt ignores the scores of black men lynched or incarcerated on false claims of rape by white women. Such tragedies are not the norm across the spectrum of rape but they exist and they counsel caution on assigning guilt based on emotion and slogans.
I’d advise the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women to get back to its mandated focus on rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence for all genders. Leave workplace conduct to those who are paid to attend to such issues. The investigator found no basis for a charge of gender discrimination. Start by believing.
Further reading from Gillian Greensite on the censure: After Careful Scrutiny …