Is San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Preying on Sexual Assault Victims?

A total of 13 women have come forward with sexual harassment claims against the mayor. Many of those women were military sex assault survivors -- and they don't think it's a coincidence that Filner is targeting them.
Publish date:
August 7, 2013
rape, military, sexual assault, sexual harassment, bob filner, veterans, san diego

If you haven't been following the outrageous case of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, here's your chance to catch up. Hint: It's getting worse and worse.

Filner, a Democrat, has come under fire in the last few weeks for allegedly sexually harassing multiple women in different scenarios. There are now a whopping 13 women speaking out against Filner for offenses as sweeping (and disgusting) as telling women who worked for him to come to work without panties; putting his hand in a woman’s bra; and forcibly kissing various women.

Feministing reports that, among the 13 accusers, "at least 8 are female veterans and members of the National Women’s Veterans Association of America (NWVAA) in San Diego. Almost of of these women are survivors of sexual assault in the military. And some of them think Filner intentionally preyed on them."

Eldonna Fernandez met the mayor in August 2012 at a National Women's Veterans Association of America "Healing and Hiring Fair." Fernandez, having being raped three times while serving in the military, gave a speech about her experience. Later, she was shocked to received a voicemail from Filner in which he asked her on a date and praised her on her speech, saying, "It's your newly favorite congressman, Bob Filner. You know, the one who fell in love with you at your last speech."

Fernandez has since joined forces with Army vet Gerri Tindley and 11 other women who have publicly accused Filner, 70, of making unwanted advances. They feel that Filner used his political sway to target them because, as sexual assault survivors, he figured they'd be less inclined to fight back or cause a stink. (Ugh.)

Army veteran Gerri Tindley also claims she was harassed at the Healing and Hiring Fair in August of last year. Tindley spoke about her rape at the conference, too, and says Filner approached her in the green room and inquired about her rape (oh hi, weird). She remembers, "He got as close as he could to me. His jacket was touching my jacket. I was bent down. He was bent down with me, rubbing like he cared, like he was consoling me."

When victims began coming forward three weeks ago, the vets at the NWVAA (National Women's Veterans Association of America) started to check in with each other about whether they'd had any negative experiences with Filner. Sarah Jones, the group's president, says, "He went to dinners, asked women out to dinners, grabbed breasts, buttocks. The full gamut. Everything that is complete violation of what we stand for ... He's a sexual predator. And he used this organization for his own personal agenda."

Not surprisingly, the other women share her perspective. Fernandez says, "It appears to me that he was targeting the organization and hitting on the women of this organization because they were easy prey. He’s part of an organization that’s against sexual assault and sexual violence against women and sexual harassment. And he’s doing the very thing that we are fighting to make stop in our service and in our country."

Tindley, for her part, questioned the notion of Filner being in public office at all, saying, "How can you be a representative, take an oath, and be a predator? Do you know how damaging that is for women who are truly victims of military sexual trauma or rape in general? Who can we trust to help us?"

Filner's been evasive about the charges against him. At the end of July, his lawyer, Harvey Berger, tried to talk his way out of it by claiming Filner had never received workplace sexual harassment training. "If there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for 'failing to prevent harassment,' " Berger wrote in a letter. SO MUCH ICK. Yeah, it's totally San Diego's fault that its mayor can't keep his mouth shut or his disgusting hands to himself. Of course!

Filner might be starting to realize the severity of the problem, though -- on Monday he checked into a two-week therapy center to work on his issues. I hope he extends his stay. For a reallllllly long time.