“The mayor is not to meet with women alone at city facilities.” When San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith made this extraordinary request, he built in accountability. He got agreement from the mayor’s attorney, his deputy chief of staff, and the chief of police. And because he announced the ban publicly, we — the mayor’s constituents — can also hold him accountable. This safeguard protects women from becoming future victims and protects the city against unnecessary legal exposure.
After I filed my complaint, my church leaders put in the same safeguard, but with no accountability that I could see. They asked my pastor not to meet privately with women until they resolved my complaint — but unfathomably, they made no announcement. So how did the women on staff (including his secretary and our associate pastor) find out that they could no longer meet alone with the boss? What did his secretary tell the women who asked for meetings with the pastor? Did my pastor end up hanging a “No Girls Allowed” sign on his door?
The San Diego County Sheriff has announced a hotline for women to report sexual harassment by the mayor. Two — no, wait, make that three — alleged victims have now come forward publicly with complaints against Mayor Filner. A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department confirms that additional calls have already come in.
My church set up no hotline and made no announcement.
While I was still meeting regularly with my former pastor, he told me a story. One of his previous congregants had been a defrocked minister from a different denomination. According to my pastor, once this man’s church announced the first sexual misconduct complaint against him, “women came out of the woodwork.” In all, nearly 30 victims came forward. When I filed my complaint, I remembered that story and fully expected that my church would announce the investigation. I genuinely believed that other women would come forward, and that the long nightmare would end for all of us. Instead, the church insisted on secrecy. If there had been other victims, and if they were as terrified as I was, the church would never learn their names. These women would never come forward on their own.
By announcing the ban against meetings with women and the hotline for new complaints, San Diego’s leaders are standing with victims and protecting the city against its greatest threat: a powerful and abusive mayor.
By insisting on secrecy and silence, my former church stood with their shining star pastor and protected the institution against its greatest threat: me. I hope they are watching as the drama unfolds in San Diego. And I hope they are taking notes.