The drama in recent months over whether he sexually abused youths years ago ought to direct our efforts to stopping child abuse, period. Let’s do that.
Now there is a period at the end of the sentence. A door will close, for most of us, on the story of a Seattle mayor accused of sexual abuse.
Ed Murray resigned as mayor Wednesday. The city can move on, but Murray, his husband and the five men who say he abused them when they were young and vulnerable will remain in the room with their pain.
The Seattle Times reported in April that a lawsuit was filed against Murray by a Kent man who claimed Murray raped and molested him when the man, later identified as Delvonn Heckard, was 15.
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Two other men said at the time that they’d also been sexually molested by Murray:
Jeff Simpson, an Oregon man, said that he met Murray while Simpson was living in a Portland group home in the 1970s and that he later lived with Murray as his foster son. He claimed Murray began abusing him when he was 13.
Lloyd Anderson said he also met Murray while he (Anderson) was living in a Portland group home, and he accused Murray of paying him for sex beginning when he was 16 or 17.
Later, Maurice Jones, of Seattle, claimed Murray paid him for sex when he was a teenager.
Murray strongly denied all their claims. The accusers had all been troubled young men — people it would be easy for many to distrust and dismiss.
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Then this week, Murray’s younger cousin, Joseph Dyer, said Murray repeatedly molested him when Murray lived with Dyer’s family in the 1970s.
None of the rest of us have a window that allows us to see what happened, but we do have opinions, and those matter because Murray sought and won the privilege of leading our city. The benefit of the doubt is the right standard in a court of law where the accused is innocent until proven guilty, but it’s a hard standard to maintain in the court of public opinion.
I’ve certainly tried to keep in mind all I don’t know, but I’ve also reached conclusions, based on what is known. I’ve gone one way and then the other and then reminded myself that I should withhold judgment. Whenever I saw Murray carrying out his public duties, I had to wonder what the people around him were thinking and how that affected the running of Seattle. I had to wonder what it said about us if he were the person those accusers told us he was.
When Murray announced in May that he would not run for re-election, I wrote that he’d made the right choice, and that “It’s a sad mess whatever the truth is.”
Sometime I read that one of his accusers had been his foster son, and my ability to imagine Murray’s innocence faltered. Some people never had doubt, but often their certainty was about something other than the specifics of this tragedy. I know people who continued to argue that a conservative political hit on Murray and his progressive politics was behind the allegations. And in the wake of his resignation, I read Twitter posts that used Murray as a bat to beat down Democrats or gay men.
None of that political warfare is helpful, and the comments about gay men are just hateful.
Seattle city government will keep functioning, and we’ll have a newly elected mayor in a few weeks. But maybe something can come from this ordeal.
If you’re looking for a place to put the energy generated by your indignation or a way to lift your sadness, then do something to stop child abuse. If you see any indication of abuse, report it to Child Protective Services, 1-866-363-4276, to school officials or to police.
Support programs that work with young children by offering a contribution of money or time, because young people who are not thriving are easier prey for abusers.
Leave the speculation behind and do something that moves us forward.