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Filner Must Resign, Women Vets Say

Saying that “ours was the wrong group to choose,” the leader of the National Women’s Veterans Association today launched a campaign to force Mayor Bob Filner to resign.

Saying that “ours was the wrong group to choose,” the leader of the National Women’s Veterans Association today launched a campaign to force Mayor Bob Filner to resign.

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Tara Jones, the president of National Women Veterans Association of America, holds a July 24 press conference to announce Mayor Filner is no longer the group's keynote speaker at its August gala.

The San Diego-based group – which just a month ago planned to give Filner an award at a gala where he was to be keynote speaker – has a simple, polite message for the mayor: “Please Resign!”

Tara Jones, leader of the nonprofit group numbering about 5,000, said many of the group's members were victims of rape and sexual assault while serving in the military. She said that since the scandal broke last month, she has heard multiple stories of Filner engaging in unwanted kissing, touching and sexual innuendo toward her members.

“When I got to eight or nine, I stopped counting,” Jones said at an afternoon press conference.

One of those veterans, retired Air Force master sergeant Eldonna Fernandez, told KPBS News that the mayor crossed a line with her at a San Diego event meant to support military women who have been sexually assaulted. After giving a speech about the three rapes she had endured in the military, Fernandez said Filner asked her on a date

"It’s not big new — a man hitting on a woman — that happens all the time. And I thought he was a little bit direct with it, and it seemed a little bit strange and I didn’t really think anything of it," she said. "Then when the news started to come out, and I read statements about what he said, and it was basically the same thing he said to me: 'Are you married? I think you are beautiful; I want to take you to dinner.' It’s almost like push rewind and play."

Fernandez said what troubles her is that Filner seemed to target women who were already vulnerable.

"And it’s almost as if he was preying on them, because apparently there were about ten of us over a couple of different events that he hit on."

In calling on Filner to resign, Jones said: “We cannot believe this has happened to us."

“We’ve heard about the 'Filner Headlock' and the 'Filner Dance' — this is not funny to us. There is nothing funny about inappropriate touching and triggering memories in rape victims,” she added.

Wearing a “Please Resign!” T-shirt, Jones called on “women’s groups, civic groups, community groups” to join her fledgling organization in calling for Filner’s immediate resignation.

“To be victimized in the service, and then re-victimized by someone you believe in … I’m still in shock,” Jones said.

“We are determined that he not hold office,” said Jones, adding she spent three years in counseling herself fighting to overcome the trauma of sexual assault she suffered in the military.

“It was a common thing for our members to reach out to the mayor” for help with veterans’ problems, Jones continued. “But it’s astounding to us that he would do this in this population; he needs to be held accountable.”

Jones said however, that Filner — who is reportedly undergoing two weeks of psychological counseling at a clinic — should still come to her group’s Aug. 30 gala. He was to have gotten an award for helping women veterans who’d been victims of sexual assault, she said now the purpose would be to apologize.


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