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Help for San Diego's domestic violence survivors

 October 22, 2021 at 12:00 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:01)

This week on round table, a high profile missing persons case becomes a murder investigation. We'll look at the resources locally for domestic violence survivors burnout in our hospitals, nurses, janitors, and others who make up the backbone of modern healthcare joined strike Tobar and unequal enforcement. Why some vaccine mandates are more firm than others. I, Matt Hoffman, and this is KPBS round table.

Speaker 2: (00:26)


Speaker 3: (00:37)

These efforts ultimately generated a variety of pieces of evidence that have become clear and overwhelming. Larry Mileti May's husband is responsible for Mae's murder and disappearance. As we make this announcement, I know the hearts of the community are broken as are the hearts of May's family. I wish we had better news for them. The only thing that we can do in the face of this senseless violence is to bring justice.

Speaker 4: (01:14)

We're still asking the public, please help us and bring my sister a ball. I didn't want to see my sister to us

Speaker 1: (01:34)

Painful moments in Chulavista this week. Those were the voices of the city's police, chief San Diego's district attorney, and the sister of Maya [inaudible] after nearly a year, since her disappearance, her husband is now in jail facing charges for her murder. This case and others are racing the discussion around domestic violence on a month dedicated to its prevention column list. Lisa Dedrick writes regularly on this topic for the San Diego union Tribune and joins us now to talk about why some of these cases get so much attention and how our region is trying to better protect those who are not in the headlines. Hey Lisa. Hi. Thanks for having me stories about missing women are a staple of modern journalism, especially TV news much has been written about the motivations for that, but where do you think a case like [inaudible] fits into that discussion?

Speaker 5: (02:17)

You know, I would hope that we're covering cases and stories like hers because they reflect what's occurring in the communities that we report on. And so that those individuals and their families are part of those communities. So their stories are worth being told.

Speaker 1: (02:32)

The local district attorney's office works with healthcare providers on what to look for when meeting with domestic violence victims, new guidelines were issued earlier this month. And part of the goal is to have a more standardized approach. What are some of the obstacles facing survivors in deciding whether or not to seek help

Speaker 5: (02:48)

The advocates and researchers that I've spoken with? For some of my stories on this topic, they talk about a number of barriers that include things like shame and victim blaming. And so we see that when people are questioning victims about why they haven't left an abusive relationship or otherwise making the abuse, the victims fault. So that can be seen in language. That includes insisting that there were red flags that should have been obvious when in reality, those indicators don't always show up during the early stages of a relationship. Other barriers include isolation from family, friends, and others who could create a support system for the abused person. There's also the barrier of fear as a result of the abuser, either threatening to, or following through on previous threats to harm either the victim, their children, friends, and family pets. There's also fear around stalking. There's a lack of resources like control of her finances for a lack of access to transportation, a lack of access to the internet. Sometimes there are cases of being forced into joint financial accounts as a form of control. There can be a lack of resources with information that's available in the victim's primary language. So those are just some of the barriers for survivors in figuring out how to implement a plan to leave or to see

Speaker 1: (04:13)

At the press conference on Tuesday for the [inaudible] case, many of the people there were wearing purple ribbons to mark domestic violence awareness month. Here are some comments from Chula Vista police, chief Roxanna Kennedy,

Speaker 3: (04:24)

Domestic violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. This is a time to acknowledge domestic violence survivors, MPA voice for its victim.

Speaker 1: (04:42)

You've written several columns on this topic this year, including back in June, when you profile the CEO of the women's resource center up in north county, what's available to survivors there who might need some help.

Speaker 5: (04:53)

What's a good question. There are actually a number of resources available to people in San Diego within the county. The WRC is definitely one of them. They're one of the county's oldest organizations providing support for victims and survivors of domestic violence. They offer a range of services, including transitional housing, shelter, counseling, legal services, emergency food and clothing, safety planning. There's a lot that is available. One of the more well-known obviously is the national domestic violence hotline. There's also locally the San Diego county domestic violence, 24 hour hotline, which is 8, 8, 8 DV links. And then San Diego also has their own shelters and services that include the wide WCA, the center for community solutions, the south bay community services, the LGBTQ community center. There's the San Diego family justice center, which is a confidential service for people in the military. And there's also the Chicano Federation of San Diego county and Casa familiar among others that just planning and advocacy and other services to help victims and survivors.

Speaker 1: (06:02)

Another one of your columns gets into the issue of technology and just how easy smartphones have made it to stock others, or even cut ties with an abuser. Was that amplified at all during the pandemic and the lockdowns that we've experienced?

Speaker 5: (06:14)

Yeah, it definitely was. That was a big concern for, uh, certainly advocacy organizations. The column that I did that was specifically around the ways that technology has played a part in the increase of reports of domestic violence during the pandemic and my interviews with the director of the domestic violence Institute at Boston's Northeastern university of law and director of the women's human rights program at the advocates for human rights. And that's a nonprofit that represents individual victims of human rights abuses both of these directors of these organizations, talked about how much more accessible and affordable technology is now and that the more the technology evolves, the tools and forms of violence evolve with that technology there, these advocates are seeing a significant increase in the amount of monitoring via technology. So that's the abuser monitoring their victim because of the necessity of the stay at home orders to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Speaker 5: (07:11)

This also meant that victims were locked inside with their abusers 24 7. So this lets what advocates noted as a lack of natural excuses for victims to escape their abusers, even temporarily with like the typical outings, like being able to say, you know, they're going to work or they're going to visit a friend that wasn't an option during the stay at home orders. And also they noted that when legal proceedings were being held virtually, it was more difficult for victims to be able to speak freely since it was also more difficult to gauge whether they were in a safe and private space.

Speaker 1: (07:46)

We should note that the [inaudible] case involves a woman of color, but going back to the larger cultural discussion on how similar high profile cases are covered, TV news has often been criticized for what's called the missing white woman syndrome. That came up a lot during the Gabby Pitino case this summer. Do you feel that the criticisms here are warranted?

Speaker 5: (08:05)

I do. I do feel that those criticisms are warranted. As we mentioned earlier, there are organizations that have been created to solely focus on women of color in their communities who go missing largely in response to larger media outlets, historically focusing on coverage of missing white women and girls in a way that's been disproportionate would compare to nonwhite women and girls who also go missing. So when the New York times wrote about this in a story last month, they noted that the demographic makeup of news outlets is also a factor of this kind of dismissing white woman syndrome. They spoke with Martin Reynolds, who's the co-executive director of the Maynard Institute for journalism education, which works with journalists of color. And Mr. Reynolds made the observation and noted how the cases that get this level of coverage resonates with those in charge of assigning and directing the coverage. So the New York times story also refers to a 2016 study from Northwestern law school showing that black people were significantly underrepresented in missing persons stories on four local and national media outlets compared to numbers in the FBI's recording of cases. So, you know, when people are criticizing media coverage as focusing solely on one group over another, over another, excuse me, I certainly think that's valid and something that we need to be working on.

Speaker 1: (09:29)

Um, and along those lines, this might not be an easy answer, but how do we change that?

Speaker 5: (09:34)

That's a good question. Um, I'm not sure that I have an easy answer for that part of what people have discussed and people who've done a lot more work in this area than I have in terms of coverage. They do tend to talk about having greater diversity in newsrooms as being a contributing factor, but also the diversity in the newsroom also has to exist among the people who are making the final decisions, right? So it can't just be, you know, the reporters, it also has to be editors and producers that are also more diverse to be able to kind of take note of when coverage is disproportionate and only really covering one group.

Speaker 1: (10:14)

I've been speaking with Lisa Dedrick, she's a columnist for the San Diego union Tribune. And Lisa, thank you so much. Thank you. There's better news. These days when it comes to the pandemic, the Delta surge that took off this summer seems to finally be slowing down. The county says 80% of eligible. People are fully vaccinated and soon kids ages five to 11 could gain access. But exhaustion is a real problem right now for those who have been working nearly two years under unprecedented circumstances, nurses, janitors, and others who keep our hospitals running already to join a budding labor movement, nicknames strike Tober for the increase of work stoppages happening in a wide range of professions. Joining us to dive into it as Christian Wong, who is following the developments with Kaiser and other health care providers here in California. Hello, Kristin,

Speaker 6: (10:59)

Thank you so much for having me great to

Speaker 1: (11:01)

Have you here. We'll get to the reasons for the labor disputes here in a moment, but first Kristin, can you tell us about the companies that are having labor issues right now?

Speaker 6: (11:09)

Yeah, there are approximately a third of hospitals across the state, including a large number of Kaiser facilities, a handful of Southern facilities and potentially others in the future that are reporting really striking staffing shortages and whose employees are ready to walk off the job. Should they, should it come to that? Yeah.

Speaker 1: (11:33)

So you sorta just said it that around one in three hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages. Can you define what that means for us and why you've heard it's happening?

Speaker 6: (11:42)

Sure. So a critical staffing shortage is something that the federal health and human services agency defines. They let individual hospitals sort of self determined whether or not they've met an internal benchmark for having a critical staffing shortage, but it covers all types of employees from janitors to nurses, respiratory therapists, to physicians spend it's essentially the hospital saying that they do not have enough staff to take care of the load of patients that they have. And these shortages are cropping up at this point, really because every surge in the pandemic has brought a unique set of different challenges to the healthcare system. But at this point recently, although the Delta surge was much milder than the winter surge. We have a lot of patients that delayed care over the past year and a half now returning to be assessed and they're sicker than they might normally have been. So they're more likely to get admitted. So hospitals really are having record patient census numbers much higher than they ever have had at the same time in the past. And at the same time, their workforce is really struggling at the tail end. We hope of this pandemic having worked for so many months without a break there, their workforce is tired and leaving.

Speaker 1: (13:01)

When these shortages happen, what does it mean for patient care

Speaker 6: (13:03)

For patients? Some locations, some hospitals have started delaying elective care again, but for a lot of patients, it ends up meaning long wait times, whether that's, you know, a long wait time in an ambulance waiting to even get admitted to the hospital or whether you have to get transferred via ambulance to a different hospital that has beds. But it certainly is something that that is concerning because I think, you know, as every individual healthcare worker in hospital is trying their best, there is certainly, you know, a lot of research to show that when you are short staffed and shorthanded in the hospital setting, that it really does negatively impact patient outcomes,

Speaker 1: (13:46)

Not just nurses, but all kinds of support staff who make a hospital run. Is there a common thread among them when it comes to their frustration?

Speaker 6: (13:52)

And there is it, you know, a hospital is like a small city. It takes all kinds of people to keep it running from cafeteria workers and the people who bring you your food to your room, to janitors, to engineers, you keep the equipment running and really across the board for all of these staff and even across varying unions that sort of historically don't necessarily get along with each other. The common complaint right now is really just this feeling of exhaustion and this feeling that, you know, as more and more people burn out and leave the field either temporarily or permanently, that those that are left are, you know, sort of drowning under the burden.

Speaker 1: (14:34)

Also the issue of pay and part of your story gets into the need for outside help known as traveling nurses. And now this work can be very lucrative, but unions told you that regular staff are not seeing the same reward. Can you tell us more about this discrepancy and how that becomes another point of contention here? Of course, the

Speaker 6: (14:51)

Pay really is quite incredible. The discrepancy that you see a regular staff nurse might make somewhere around $3,000 per week and traveling nurses are in such high demand because everywhere. So short staff across the country, that they are making upwards of $10,000 a week. I think people that get into the healthcare profession and they're doing it for reasons other than money, but something like that really is a disheartening, especially after you feel like you've sacrificed, you know, truly your own safety and your own family's safety, to be able to respond to the pandemic like this and, you know, hospitals for their part, they have offered, you know, shift bonuses and childcare subsidies and things like that. But it doesn't sort of come close to the amount of money that has been spent on temporary traveling staff

Speaker 1: (15:43)

Earlier this year, governor Gavin Newsome tried to get a volunteer health Corps up and running to help with the staffing. But you write that it didn't give much of a boost. How did that end up turning out?

Speaker 6: (15:53)

It's been described to me as a very sort of a noble effort, but something that didn't really pan out. I think when the call for volunteers for medical volunteers went out around 90,000 people volunteered, but it very, very few of them had the actual technical and medical knowledge or current licensing to be able to help. And then in the same way that your long-term staff is getting burnt out, volunteers didn't hang on for very long. I think in January, the AP actually reported that only 14 volunteers out of an original 90,000. We're still in the workforce.

Speaker 1: (16:31)

Some of this is happening right here in Southern California. What can you tell us about strikes that may be on the horizon here?

Speaker 6: (16:38)

Nurses association of California and the union of healthcare professionals, which represent 20, more than 20,000 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals like technicians and optometrists and pharmacists, primarily at Kaiser facilities in Southern California have authorized a strike vote against their employer. And it's, it's important to note that labor negotiations are complex and the strike vote does not mean that a strike is happening, but it gives them the option. So to my knowledge, they are still bargaining, but they have been out of their contract, which expired at the end of September for quite a while. So if they feel that the bargaining is not going where they need it to go, and one of their main complaints is inadequate staffing, then they can give notice to Kaiser and strike within 10 days, which would potentially impact more than a dozen Kaiser medical centers across Southern California and other clinics, as well

Speaker 1: (17:40)

Mentioned at the top of this story, that the trend is not limited to healthcare workers among those you've spoken with. Are they aware of some of the other direct actions that are happening across the country? And if so, do they feel some sense of a solidarity or some sense of momentum that right now is the time to speak up?

Speaker 6: (17:56)

There really does seem to be the sense of solidarity. I it's everywhere from, you know, the food industry to education, to manufacturing. I think, um, cereal like Kellogg workers recently went on strike. And when I speak to labor advocates, you know, everybody sort of says that each union has its own issues. The dollars and cents of bargaining are always going to be different. But there really is this sort of sense of solidarity right now that everyone who was a frontline worker during the pandemic, whether it's healthcare or otherwise, they want to be recognized for what they did. Unions are even, you know, some of the ones you can only strike potentially if you have bargaining coming up. But if your contract is not going to end any time soon, a lot of those organizations are also just planning pickets in solidarity with other unions.

Speaker 1: (18:46)

I've been speaking with Kristin Wong. She covers healthcare for Cal matters. Thanks so much, Kristin,

Speaker 6: (18:51)

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: (18:56)

Before we talk with the UTS, Charles Clark on vaccine mandates for adults, masks are still a pointed issue. When it comes to kids at our schools for hundreds of parents, it was enough to pull them out of school this week for what they called us. Sit out,

Speaker 7: (19:09)

We're hearing from parents, with kids who have epilepsy that are hearing impaired at kids that are English language learners, and they're struggling to learn the English language when they can't see their teachers mouths. Uh, we're hearing about anxiety, depression.

Speaker 1: (19:25)

That's Sharon, Mckeeman the woman behind the group. Let them breathe. KPBS north county reporter, Tonya thorn recently profiled her work and her mission. You can stream that story anytime on the KPBS YouTube page, To be clear for the vast majority of San Diego, there's not much of a debate. The county's vaccination dashboard shows 80% of eligible. People are fully vaccinated and nearly 90% have received at least one dose. Some of that progress might be due to government agencies and private companies requiring vaccines to maintain employment, but not everyone is on the same page. That includes one high risk setting that our guests Charles Clark wrote about in the San Diego union Tribune. Welcome Charles,

Speaker 8: (20:08)

Thanks for having me Matt pleasure to be here.

Speaker 1: (20:10)

So we're talking about the situation at our prisons. Can you remind us of how bad the pandemic has been in this setting and how we're, why we're still seeing outbreaks there?

Speaker 8: (20:19)

Great. Since the pandemic began, we've seen 51,000 incarcerated Californians infected by the coronavirus. COVID-19 there have been 240 deaths as well as 39 deaths of prison employees. And there've been dozens of outbreaks as well. And we know thanks to a recent court filing that even just in the past two months, there's no sign that this is really going away since August. There've been 11 COVID deaths, unvaccinated prison, staffers, and outbreaks at 21 prisons.

Speaker 1: (20:52)

And sort of, have you heard why some guards and other staff want to be exempted from vaccine mandates?

Speaker 8: (20:58)

The main line we've heard that is quite similar to what we've heard with various other groups, including law enforcement that have pushed back against the vaccine mandate is they would argue that they think is just as good to encourage people to get vaccinated. And meanwhile, have a testing system in place, you know, as an alternative for those who don't want to get vaccinated. I think there's some logistical challenges to that, you know, namely on whose time would they be getting tested? I think a lot of people would probably have a difficult time justifying using taxpayer funds for people to do something that could have been avoided entirely, but that's just my feel of it

Speaker 1: (21:39)

Are inmates required or allowed to get vaccinated.

Speaker 8: (21:42)

So inmates are allowed to, they are not required, uh, which is kind of one of the other kind of odd twists of this is that inmates aren't required to get vaccinated yet. 77% of inmates in California have been they've opted into doing so. Uh, meanwhile only 60% of prison staff have done the same, which kind of pokes a hole in the argument that the unions kind of make that, oh, if we just encourage people to get vaccinated, eventually they'll do it. You know, the, the vaccine has been around for a good spell here now. And, and clearly that is not the case.

Speaker 1: (22:18)

Democratic governors like Gavin Newsome have been supportive of vaccine mandates, like the ones that you said earlier and other policies to slow the pandemic, but not in this case. Why do you think that is Charles?

Speaker 8: (22:27)

Do you know? It, it be special live, but I do feel like, you know, what's kind of been pointed out by advocates and certainly journalists as well as you know, the elephant in the room is that in the union that represents the prison guards, they are fiercely opposed to a mandate. And they also happen to be big political players in Sacramento so much so that they contributed believe it was $1.5 million to resist recall efforts in support of governor Gavin Newsome. So it's, it's very easy. I think for people to look at the situation and feel like, you know, the governor may be doing a favor, you know, for people who have backed him

Speaker 1: (23:11)

Something, isn't the only one to ease off on the vaccine issue. Southwest airlines is a major carrier here in San Diego. They plan to put all their workers on unpaid leave if they were not vaccinated by December. Now, they're backtracking on that policy. Charles, is this about an industry struggling to keep its workers? Or do you think that there's something else playing into this?

Speaker 8: (23:30)

You know, it's hard to say. I think what you'll see with a lot of industries is that the public line that we've seen go out is, you know, that there's fear about keeping workers. I don't necessarily buy that. That's the whole reason behind it. I'm not saying that's necessarily the case with Southwest, but certainly, you know, there are other groups or maybe there's a political element to it, but I guess kind of my core kind of question when they kind of make that argument is, are workers really going to quit, right? I mean, it's one thing to threaten to do it. It's another thing for people to follow through on going without a paycheck and trying to find a new job. And I think especially given what we all went through the past two years and the impacts during COVID, I just, I have a hard time believing that the enough workers are willing to just walk away. That is going to create the kind of shortages that we're hearing. You know, not just industries, but even some, you know, local governments express concerns about

Speaker 1: (24:34)

Still a vocal minority of people who are opposed to vaccines. Maybe the most organized is around the issue of vaccines in schools, public comments at school board meetings have been especially combative when these vaccine mandates are not enforced. Do you think that that just injects uncertainty into this debate and fuel these anti-vaccine efforts?

Speaker 8: (24:53)

Uh, absolutely. You know, to, to, to be quite blunt, this is a vocal minority as you emphasized. And I think it's really important for people to remember that at the same time, you can look at that vocal minority and feel like it is actually having some kind of effect, because I do think you see, you know, whether it's, you know, school boards or other local jurisdictions kind of giving them breadcrumbs, right? If, if you give them a small win, it, it feeds the beast. And they're able to turn around and say, oh, look, this frankly unscientific argument we're making is actually gaining essentially tacit approval. And I do think that certainly feeds it a bit more.

Speaker 1: (25:35)

I've been speaking with Charles Clark, a columnist for the San Diego for tuning into this week's PBS round table. And thank you to my guests, Lisa Dedrick and Charles Clark from the San Diego union Tribune and Kristin Wong from Cal matters. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen anytime on the KPBS Roundtable podcast, I'm Matt Hoffman. Join us next week on round table.

Alexander Nguyen
A missing poster for Maya Millete at a news conference announcing the arrest of husband Larry Millete on suspicion of her murder. Oct. 19, 2021.
A discussion on the resources for domestic violence survivors locally, health care workers consider striking due to low staffing and burnout, and how vaccine mandates are not being enforced equally.

After nearly a year of searching for Maya Millete, a missing woman from Chula Vista, her husband was arrested this week on suspicion of her murder. We discuss new local guidelines on how first responders and health care workers screen for warning signs of abuse and how these stories are covered by the media. Also, an update on potential strikes by health care workers across California who are fed up with staffing shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We also discuss contradictions in vaccine mandate enforcement in a variety of areas from the state prison system to airlines. Guests include columnist Lisa Deaderick from The San Diego Union-Tribune, health care reporter Kristen Hwang from CalMatters, and columnist Charles Clark from The San Diego Union-Tribune.