The child sexual abuse allegations against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray underscore why victims, especially men, are reluctant to come forward.
GOV. Jay Insee on Friday signed a good piece of legislation that allows sexual-assault victims to get permanent protection orders from their abusers. It is intended to provide them some longterm peace of mind that they won’t be re-victimized.
It’s good policy because research consistently shows that rape — particularly against men — is grossly underreported. And just 12 percent of sexual assaults against minors get reported to police.
Those statistics are especially important to remember when considering the accusations levied against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. As a fourth man came forward to accuse Murray of child sexual abuse from years ago, the Seattle progressive establishment has remained relatively quiet as the mayor’s defense team has tried to pick apart the accusers’ backgrounds for signs they’re lying.
But many victim advocates have been troubled by the tactic. The King County Sexual Assault Resource Centersent a powerful email to supporters about the complexity of circumstances that can lead to vulnerable people being abused. Executive Director Mary Ellen Stone said the center’s “40 years of experience responding to thousands of victims, combined with data and research from across the country,” has contributed to an understanding about the challenges, including stigma, facing sexual-abuse victims.
Stone wrote that:
• It is difficult for victims to come forward, especially if they have criminal histories and are accusing a “high-profile individual.”
• Men report abuse far less frequently.
• People struggling with substance abuse and homelessness “are more vulnerable to sexual assault.”
• A lack of prosecution “does not mean that a sexual assault did not occur,” given that just 3 percent of sexual-assault offenders are eventually incarcerated, according to RAINN, a national anti-sexual violence organization.
Stone did not weigh in on the veracity of the mayor’s accusers, but emphasized that all victims need to be treated with dignity and compassion if they report abuse. Other groups aligned with Murray’s politics — the Greater Seattle Business Association; Seattle’s LBGTQ chamber of commerce; API Chaya, which supports domestic violence victims in the Asian and Pacific Islander community; and The NW Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse — have made similar statements.
Their powerful messages should be taken to heart by our community, including by the holder of the city’s highest office.