After defending Ed Murray, can Bruce Harrell be the mayor of the survivors? | 8-14 Sep 2021
As allegations of sexual abuse mounted against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in 2017, then-city council members and current mayoral candidates Lorena González and Bruce Harrell had polar reactions. González, Murray’s former legal advisor, was the first board member to call for Murray’s resignation in a public statement released on the morning of July 17, 2017. Harrell, then chairman of the board, appeared to defend Murray after a briefing at the town hall the same day.
After that briefing, Harrell said the people of Seattle “haven’t asked us to try anyone for something that happened 33 years ago or that maybe didn’t happen.” We just don’t know. And I would ask that I don’t want to be judged for anything 33 years ago…. And I would challenge each of you to think back to where you were 33 years ago. The question is: are you doing your job today right now?
Now González and Harrell will appear on the November ballot competing for Murray’s former seat, four years after his resignation.
Although Harrell previously asked not to be tried for anything 33 years ago, some survivors may be judging his actions four years ago as they head to the polls.
“When those in power choose to defend the accused, it has a real impact on those who are still dealing with their trauma,” González said in a telephone interview in April.
She later added, “The survivors of Seattle are going to have to assess who they think would best serve their interests and the interests of other survivors in the city.”
Mary Dispenza, a child sexual abuse survivor and a vocal critic of Murray’s abuse, appears to have made up her mind.
” No, I do not want [Harrell] be the mayor, ”said Dispenza, who was a board member of the local network of survivors of the priest abuse section in 2017.“ No, I don’t. And I know why.
SNAP is not a political organization, but in 2017 the advocacy group called for Murray’s resignation in a letter delivered to city council. Months earlier, the Seattle Times had run an op-ed written by Dispenza in response to claims that calls to disrupt the “secrecy” and “silence” she says survivors of sexual abuse are accustomed to.
In a telephone interview in April, Dispenza said she once considered Murray a “friend”, “a good Catholic” and “a good mayor”. She thought he might be a governor someday. However, when the victims began to come forward, she said ignoring the accusations would be “a sin in itself.”
“Leaders have a responsibility when they hear the first accusation,” Dispenza said. “They can’t wait for this to happen again – or again, or again. “
González was the first city council member to speak out, following the release of public documents detailing a 1984 investigation that determined Murray likely assaulted his own adopted son.
In an emailed statement, Harrell said: “I was deeply upset by the allegations and urged Murray to step down once again. I’m glad this chapter is well behind us.
According to a Seattle Times podcast, Harrell, who served as mayor for five days after Murray left, has never publicly called for Murray’s resignation.
In an interview with the International Examiner earlier this year, Harrell said his statement was misinterpreted.
“I never defended Ed Murray,” Harrell said. “I laid out the facts.
According to Harrell, more information came out about Murray after he made this statement, following a briefing on July 17, 2017. There were four accusers at the time. Another accuser would come forward before Murray resigned.
“As a lawyer, I am trained to try to discern the facts first and make decisions accordingly,” Harrell said. “When the first allegation was made, when I was asked about Ed Murray, my response was that I didn’t know what had happened – I just knew there were allegations.”
González also has legal training as a civil rights lawyer. Her work included advocating for victims of sexual abuse.
“It’s not about suing someone,” González said. She later added: “This is the fundamental moral question of whether or not you believe that a person credibly accused by multiple victims of child sexual abuse should have the privilege of becoming mayor of this. city.”
While the trial of Murray’s adopted ex-son has failed due to legal hurdles related to the statute of limitations, Dispenza is challenging Harrell’s dismissal of actions 33 years ago.
“He says if you were abused 33 years ago, that doesn’t count – you don’t count,” Dispenza said.
Dispenza says she was sexually assaulted by her pastor when she was 7 years old.
“I’m 80 years old now and still face some of the implications of this abuse around privacy and power,” Dispenza said. “A survivor carries with him a lifetime of challenges. “
She called Harrell’s statement a “slap in the face” to survivors.
Jessyn Farrell, who failed to come out of the 2021 mayor’s primary, also initially defended Murray during his 2017 mayoral bid, saying: “[her] heart goes out to Mayor Murray. As a city, we must reject the politics of personal destruction. She then called on Murray to step down in July and apologized for her earlier remarks.
“It was really important for me to model what change can look like,” Farrell said of his actions in 2017. “A lot of people still have to change if we’re going to get to a place where we truly prevent sexual assault. .. “
During the Farrell mayoral campaign, she outlined strategies to tackle rape culture: supporting consent education, funding access to public health, ensuring trauma-informed investigations for assault , improve the economic agency for women and fight against sexist culture in the workplace – which she spoke out. before. In the August primary, Farrell got 7.29% of the vote.
Despite their separate reactions, Harrell and González both appear to have similar priorities in how they would support the survivors as mayor of Seattle.
According to data collected by the City of Seattle and King County, domestic violence-related deaths increased in 2020 compared to 2019. González says she wants to “invest significantly” in programs that will address the domestic and sexual violence that survivors “cannot escape now” due to the pandemic.
In an April 15 press release, Harrell called on city leaders to allocate a minimum of $ 10 million in federal relief funds to address the rise in domestic violence and gun violence.
“I fully understand the trauma and pain this ordeal has triggered for so many survivors and victims,” said Harrell. “I have had dozens of conversations with survivors and victims since then and I think I will be a better mayor because of it.”
This article was originally published by the International Examiner on April 30, 2021 and updated to show the primary results.
Hannah Krieg studied journalism at the University of Washington. She is particularly interested in covering politics, social issues and anything else that gives her an excuse to speak with activists.
Read the rest of the September 8-14, 2021 issue.