A Tale of Two Victims - Voice of San Diego

Bob Filner UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

A Tale of Two Victims

It was easy for the city to make a big show of celebrating Peggy Shannon, who was harassed by Bob Filner and didn’t ask for any financial compensation. But the city’s treatment of Jane Doe, who’s suing over her encounter with a rogue cop, reveals a much different attitude toward victims.

Tuesday was a big day for a woman we know only as Jane Doe.

Doe was a victim of former cop Anthony Arevalos, and is suing the city. In Tuesday’s court hearing, the city continued to attack Doe’s credibility.

Jan Goldsmith, the city attorney, has been key to the city’s effort to make Doe look undeserving of the money and police safeguards she’s seeking in her lawsuit.

Sara Libby on NewsThat’s what makes Goldsmith’s appearance just a day earlier at a gathering to celebrate another woman, who was also a victim of a city employee, ring hollow.

Monday’s event honoring Peggy Shannon, the City Hall worker who was one of almost 20 women to publicly accuse former Mayor Bob Filner of harassment, was full of warm fuzzies.

Shannon was arguably the most sympathetic of all the Filner accusers – and that’s saying a lot in a group that also includes a naval officer, military sexual assault victims and a health aide trying to get help for a wounded veteran. Her tearful press conference, where she described how her treasured job devolved into a dreaded obligation thanks to Filner, was excruciating.

But on Monday, Shannon seemed happy and grateful. She told the city and the media that she was humbled by Peggy Shannon Day.

Even Shannon’s attorney, Gloria Allred – who was every bit as indignant and angry as Shannon was hesitant and heartbreaking back in that August press conference – sang a different tune.

She said San Diego might be the first city to publicly thank and celebrate a sexual harassment victim.

That might be true as far as a day named in someone’s honor – but the city has acknowledged a victim of sexual misconduct before. That woman was Doe. And her ongoing fight with the city casts quite a shadow on the rosy glow of Monday’s gathering.

Police Chief William Lansdowne once called Doe “very courageous” for coming forward to report Arevalos.

But then she sued the city. And suddenly this “very courageous” person was just looking for money. That’s when Goldsmith went on the offensive. He argued that Doe was partly responsible for her own assault because she “bribed” Arevalos with her underwear.

He only withdrew that argument after the U-T publicized it. Goldsmith’s office also paid a private investigator to track Doe, a creepy experience that Doe said stressed out her and her family members and friends whose interactions were taped.

Goldsmith’s certainly in a complex situation. He’s not just a straight lawyer for the city (if he were, he’d surely face more wrath from a legal community that tends to frown on slut-shaming and shadowing victims of sexual assault). He’s also a steward of public tax dollars and an elected official.

I decided to try to get some perspective from someone who might know what goes into making the types of decisions Goldsmith has to make.

Rocky Delgadillo, the former Los Angeles city attorney, declined to talk about the specifics of the Jane Doe case, but he said any city attorney must juggle several competing factors:

“You’re an elected official. You’re not just a lawyer. So, you get to step out of your role as the lawyer and advocate for certain things that you think are important. It puts you in a very unique place, where you have an ethical obligation to defend your client, you have attorney-client privilege and then you’re an elected official. It’s a very delicate balance.”

But there’s a more basic balance at issue here: the one between a city’s ideals and its wallet.

It’s no wonder Goldsmith was able to stand next to Peggy Shannon Monday. On top of the fact that he’d do anything to dance on Filner’s grave, there’s this, from the U-T:

“Shannon, a great-grandmother who staffs a City Hall information desk for senior citizens, will receive no money as part of the settlement.”

It sure is easy to applaud heroism when there are no strings or sacrifice attached. That’s not the case with Doe, who’s seeking damages and a federal police monitor (something even neutral observers say we need).

Arevalos’ conviction on the most serious charges against Doe was vacated Tuesday, but still no one disputes that what took place between Arevalos and Doe was a gross, criminal abuse of power.

To float the idea in a court of law that Doe was in any way complicit in that abuse is revolting on its own, and could dissuade future victims from coming forward.

For that suggestion to come from the city itself, against one of its own citizens – the ones who are supposed to be protected by, not victimized by, its police force – is outrageous.

It’s Goldsmith’s job to pinch pennies on the city’s behalf. But there are ways to argue that Doe doesn’t deserve as much as she’s asking for without hiring people to stalk her, or suggesting that she deserves what happened to her because she’s been known to wear shorts and kiss her boyfriend in public – two supposed transgressions documented by the investigator sent to tail her.

That’s textbook slut-shaming, and it says a lot more about the city’s real attitude toward victims of harassment and abuse than any gauzy commendations about how brave these women were to come forward.

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