Amid Ongoing Allegations Of Sexual Assault, San Diego Mayor Plans To Speak At Sexual Assault Survivors’ Event

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"Amid Ongoing Allegations Of Sexual Assault, San Diego Mayor Plans To Speak At Sexual Assault Survivors’ Event"

Bob Filner (Credit: AP)

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D) is trying to make lemonade out of serious sexual harassment allegations. Instead of stepping down after he admitted last week to sexually harassing several female city employees, Filner dug in his heels, insisting that he would seek counseling while serving out his term. Now, he is leveraging the negative media attention to his advantage, promising to deliver a keynote address at a benefit for sexual assault survivors.

Filner was originally supposed to be an award recipient for his anti-sexual assault work. That honor was stripped from him following last week’s revelations, but the group hosting the event, the National Military Women Veterans Association of America, asked him to speak about his own scandal instead.

Last week, Filner’s close political allies went public with accusations they had heard from colleagues of Filner’s who were too afraid to come forward. They called on the Mayor to step down immediately. He did not, and this week the allies once again took to the podium to reveal more details.

One woman says Filner “rammed his tongue down her throat” and stuck his hand in her bra. Another woman also says Filner kissed her against her will. A third woman reported that Filner said she would work better “without your panties on.” If Filner is guilty of these charges, those actions could actually qualify as sexual assault — the very issue that the mayor was selected to receive an award for preventing.

Filner, for his part, spoke to KUSI about the allegations this week, saying, “I’m a hugger, of both men and women… As it turns out that those are taken in an offensive manner, I need to have a greater sense of awareness of what I am doing and we will correct that, and I am taking those steps.” He added, “There is a difference between someone who is tough to work for… and sexual harassment.”

The Mayor also said that the government is “going to be insulated from these other processes… the city is going to be well governed while we deal with the process of these, what might be, investigations.” He has brought in other staffers to handle city employees. Ultimately, however, Filner’s refusal to step down creates a difficult power dynamic for any of his victims who have not yet spoken up. By remaining in office, it’s likely the Mayor is making it harder for women to come forward — particularly those who might work in city government and fear retaliation.

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Women’s advocacy group Ultraviolet has issued a statement calling on Filner to resign: “No woman should face the threat of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, and yet far too many do because of men like Bob Filner,” the statement says. “We demand he immediately resign, issue a full apology for his actions, and work to make the political space one in which women have the same opportunities and pathways to success as men.”

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