Women's Group Uses Mayoral Scandal As Awareness Campaign Catalyst
August 20, 2013 1:26 p.m.
Anne Hoiberg, president, board of directors, Women's Museum of California
Martha Sullivan, Women Occupy San Diego
CAVANAUGH: Organizers of an impromptu series of programs beginning this weekend are trying to seize the moment. They want to use San Diego's present focus on sexual harassment to open a wider discussion about women and violence. It's called "No More Excuses. Stop it Now!" From sexual harassment to domestic violence and rape. Joining me are my guests, Anne Hoiberg, welcome to the show.
HOIBERG: It's good to be here again.
CAVANAUGH: And Martha Sullivan joins us with women occupy San Diego. Hello.
SULLIVAN: Thank you very much, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Martha. As a member of the democratic central committee, you raised concerns about Bob Filner when he was running for mayor. What did you tell the Democratic Party?
SULLIVAN: Well, hopefully we're not going to talk too much about Mayor Filner. We really want this to be about the bigger issue of violence against women. The concern that I expressed was that I -- in conversation with other women, I had heard a lot of concerns expressed about volunteers and other women feeling uncomfortable with interaction with Bob Filner. And my big concern, and the concern of other women was the potential for that negatively impacting the campaign. But we're here today because there's a much bigger issue and problem facing San Diego, California, the United States, and the world. Half our population is regularly intimidated, bullied, and physically assaulted because they're women.
CAVANAUGH: I continuing goes to your point about people coming forward and telling their stories. How were your concerns received when you originally mentioned that there may be a problem with candidate Filner?
SULLIVAN: Because there was no official complaint, it wasn't followed up on. And this is really a standard problem with underrepresented people getting their concerns addressed. Because by definition, they don't really have a voice. And so in the formal channel, they tend to keep people out because it requires so much effort. And it also requires, as we've seen here in San Diego, it requires you to subject yourself to public shaming for all intents and purposes. So the initial violence perpetrated against you, verbal or physical, is only exacerbated when you come forward.
CAVANAUGH: And as I understand it, what you're saying is that issues like this may indeed be taking place in workplaces all over San Diego.
SULLIVAN: I don't think there's a "may" about it. I think there's an "are" about it.
CAVANAUGH: You'll be taking place in the kickoff event Saturday to open up these workshops on violence against women. I wonder if you could explain why sexual harassment could be be considered violence against women.
HOIBERG: Well, if you look at the definition of violence against women, it includes psychological trauma. It includes physical and sexual. So it does encompass all facets of what people go through who are subjected to sexual harassment. So it is a form of violence against women, and if it does cause suffering, that civic a form of violence also.
CAVANAUGH: And do you find that women need to be educated about these things, what sexual harassment is, and that it is in a way a form of violence, of taking power?
HOIBERG: I think it's crucial that women are educated. And women must be able to feel comfortable and to tell the perpetrator to stop it, and if that perpetrator does not stop it, then further actions must be taken. And it really is on the victim's obligation. I hate to put it on her shoulders again. But she really does have to speak up. "No More Excuses. Stop it Now!", and if he doesn't stop it, if it is a man, then she must go to human resources, or the U.S. equal employment opportunity commission. And already this year, the EEOC has over 11,000 complaints they have to deal with.
CAVANAUGH: How do we make it easier for women to come forward?
SULLIVAN: Well, that's a great question. I just wanted to jump in to talk about this public shaming that happens to women who do express concerns or who say I've been violated. Either emotionally or physically. I mean, we have to not only help women to feel more confident to push back themselves, we also need to make it not shameful admit that you've been bullied by a sexual harasser, or that you've been attacked. But that's your right as a woman, and society will support you if you do it.
CAVANAUGH: Can you give us an example of someone you feel has been shamed by coming forward and making allegations, in the most recent occurrence here in San Diego?
SULLIVAN: Well, all you've got to do is read the comment threads on any article that's posted. The comments that are made about the women who have come forward, I mean it ranges from their appearance to -- it's public shaming. And if people want to know why women don't come forward or why they take so long to come forward, this is exactly why! They don't want to subject themselves to the public shaming, their families to the public shaming, much less their children. So the reality is just as we want to give due process to the alleged perpetrators, we need to give due process to the victims.
CAVANAUGH: You brought this up, the very first question I asked you, you said you want to change the focus. I'm wondering with such a focus on Mayor Filner, whether he's going to resign or stay in office, do you think the issue about sexual harassment is taking a backseat?
SULLIVAN: Well, we're trying to change that. There's a lot of issues that command our attention and need our action. But the reality is that bullying of women and girls and other violence against women and girls is not going to go away after whatever shakes out of our local political situation. It's still going to be here, and it's still going to have devastating consequences for our society. I want to point out that Malala, the young girl who was shot in the head because she wanted to go to school in Pakistan, she recently said, and I'll quote, "we cannot all succeed if half of us are held back." This is not just a feel good, warm, fuzzy issue. This is also economic.
CAVANAUGH: Ann, is the idea of holding these workshops, getting them going to, refocus our discussion here in San Diego on the victims of sexual harassment and violence against women?
HOIBERG: I think the focus is on clarifying what is sexual harassment, and what can we do to stop it. So our campaign, stop it now, is geared toward that. And our workshops will concentrate on having women discuss their feelings, what they have been through, and how we can go forward. And we hope really to get men involved. I'm sure there are so many men who are totally embarrassed by this whole situation. So we need to have men come on board and really help with this and really stop what's going on in our society. It's not just in the workplace. It's in public spaces. It's everywhere.
SULLIVAN: The military.
CAVANAUGH: And I wanted to ask you about this, San Diego has a large military presence. How will you be addressing military sexual violence as one of the workshops?
HOIBERG: That will be one of our key issues. And we do want to concentrate on the new program that the Navy has developed where they're reality having more internal investigations of the cases. There were just 7 cases of sex crimes that were conducted here in San Diego, in the San Diego area. All of the seven perpetrators were found guilty. So I think the military is really taking this seriously, there's a great deal of pressure being cut on the military. From Kong woman Jacky Spears, Senator Kirsten Gillbrand who is also concerned about sexual assaults in the military. So one of the workshops will be working with the military and identifying exactly what the Marine Corps and the Navy are doing to stop sexual assaults in the military.
CAVANAUGH: How are the workshops going to be conducted? Are participants going to be part of setting the agenda for them?
SULLIVAN: Part of this kickoff on Saturday night is to kick off a conversation with primely women because we really want to give women a huge voice in there, to help us develop this campaign and help us design workshops or other events or other means that women think will help them to really understand these issues and help them to deal with them, and help them to communicate with others about it.
CAVANAUGH: And what groups are you partnering with in this effort with these workshops and this kickoff event?
SULLIVAN: Well, thus far we have a great lineup, and I have to give kudos to Anne. We have had the league. Women voters of San Diego, the organization of international human right was San Diego, the women's museum, the bilateral safety corridor coalition, and the American women for international understanding. So we already have a great coalition kicking this off, and we look forward to joining more women's organizations here locally.
HOIBERG: We will be partnering also with the family justice center. When we do our workshop on domestic violence or terrorism in the home, we will be working with those organizations that are working very hard to stop domestic violence in our community. And that is the most prevalent violent crime in our county.
CAVANAUGH: There is a certain amount of frustration that is evident in the title of this movement, "No More Excuses. Stop it Now!". Talk to me about that. Is it a point that we've been speaking about this for years now, and yet it still continues? And you've just had it up to here?
SULLIVAN: Well, I'm 54 years old. I filed a complaint when I was a student intern many years ago. And I was fortunate. I was working with the women coordinator from my agency. So it was dealt with quite quickly. But as you say, the reality is that we've been able to make some real strides for women. Nobody is discounting that. But this is where we get to the tough stuff. We've sort of dealt with some of the low-hanging fruit, now we get to the tough work, which is changing how people interact with women, changing their fundamental approach to their relationships, and that's really what it is. It's about powering relationships, and right now, it's very symmetrical.
CAVANAUGH: What are you hoping women will take away?
HOIBERG: We want them to feel empowered, and feel they can carry themselves so they won't appear to be a potential victim. We really want women to not feel that they are vulnerable. So if we can strengthen them, and really make them feel as though it's okay to be out at night and to feel safe in public spaces. But we really need to deal more seriously with what's going on in our homes. Why is it that in our county there are more than 16,000 cases of domestic violence that were reported last year?
CAVANAUGH: The kickoff campaign, "No More Excuses. Stop it Now!" Is Saturday, August 4th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Thank you both very much.
SULLIVAN: Thank you, Maureen.