I am pretty sure you’ve been sitting around wondering, “What does Jen think about this whole Ed Murray situation?” So, I will give you the gift of my semi-informed opinion.
If you don’t live in Seattle or if you live in Seattle but are either Amish or somehow otherwise disconnected from all news and information, here’s a brief re-cap: Our current mayor, Ed Murray, was running for re-election. Just as the mayoral candidates began their campaigning, allegations of sexual abuse against Ed Murray came out (and not for the first time). There have now been four men who have spoken out to say that Murray sexually abused them in the 1980s, when they were minors. Ed Murray has fervently denied these claims, and yesterday he announced that he is dropping out of the race.
This is a sad situation. It’s sad no matter what the truth is, which we will most likely never know. (The Murray team keeps saying that these allegations have not been proven, but I don’t know how they could be proven, especially 3 decades after the fact.) There are only two possibilities here: These are either false accusations that are part of a sinister conspiracy to discredit and ruin a gay man and gay men in general by reinforcing the worst conservative stereotype–that all gay men are pedophiles,* or these are true accusations of four different men who, as teens, were abused by a man who has risen to power and continues to deny the claims of his victims.
On Murray’s side: The timing of these allegations does bring about a certain level of suspicion. The men came forward just weeks before the campaign filing deadline. Additionally, the Murray team claims that these allegations are all part of a right-wing, anti-gay conspiracy. That is some dark shit, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past right-wingers. I also really feel for his husband through all of this. Here is an op-ed written by Murray himself for a full understanding of his side of the story:
On the alleged victims’ side: Ed Murray’s response to this situation was disappointing, and that’s a generous adjective. He made the typical power play of dredging up the criminal records of his accusers in an attempt to discredit them. This tactic is used time and again by sexual abusers, those defending police officers who shoot unarmed black men, and others in positions of power, and I don’t like to see it used in our city by our mayor. Ed Murray should know better. Oh, and he DOES know better, because back in the 1990s when he was trying to shed light on hate crimes targeted at LGBTQ people, he said, “The system tends to blame the victim.” Yet here he is committing his very own character assassination on members of the LGBTQ community. Come on, Ed.
Read the opinion piece by Jonathan Martin below for further commentary on this issue, but if you don’t read it, here is the quote I find most striking and important:
“I don’t know if the three men are lying and Murray is innocent of all their accusations. But I do believe that Murray’s attacks on his accusers’ backgrounds send a terrible message to victims of child sexual abuse, one that the Seattle establishment tacitly condones with its blue wall of silence.”
There are also four different men claiming they were abused, and it is exceedingly rare for people to lie about being sexually assaulted. Victims are almost always telling the truth (only 2-8% of sexual assault reports are falsely made… see link below).
Also, Ed Murray is a gay man, but these men are also gay men. Gay men being stereotyped as pedophiles is a problem, but gay/bisexual men are also much more likely to be victims of sexual abuse (If you clicked the link above, you may have noticed that a shocking 47% of bisexual men have been raped) than straight men. So what makes Ed Murray more credible than four men claiming to have been abused by him? Why should I believe him? Because he’s in a position of power? Because he wears a suit? Because some of these men have criminal records? None of these things make him more credible. In fact, it is quite common for troubled teens, especially those who have been sexually assaulted, to have criminal records. Besides, have you EVER seen a politician admit to these kinds of things? No. You haven’t. Until proof surfaces that forces them to come clean, the play is to vehemently deny the accusations and smear their accusers.
Full disclosure: I would not have voted for Murray anyway and really believe we need new leadership (Nikkita Oliver for mayor!), so his announcement to step down obviously doesn’t affect me as it affects his supporters. That said, I think he made the right decision. He needed to step down. When I heard the news I audibly exhaled.
As I said above, we will most likely never know the truth behind this controversy. But what we do know is that it has created a toxic situation for all sides, and for Seattle itself. Not to mention the multitude of sexual abuse survivors who have been reliving a nightmare through this very public story. How many of those survivors, I wonder, were not believed when they came forward with their story? How many of them had their character attacked? And how many victims are out there who never came forward at all? If Murray had stayed in the race (and worse, won), what message would that send to those victims?
I know there are many people who disagree with me. That’s cool. This is my blog, so you’re stuck with my opinion about things here. I’m opening to hearing yours. I’m also quite sure that there are many gay men who stand by Ed Murray. I am not a gay man, and I can’t claim to understand that perspective, but I can respect standing by your people, especially when you are a member of a historically marginalized group.
What I will say is that I personally am damn sure I would rather err on the side of the victim than the abuser. And I also feel damn sure that Ed Murray stepping down was the best thing for our city.
*Incidentally, my grandfather once told me that he had removed my uncle from his boy scout troop because he suspected the troop leader was gay, the implication being that he would certainly have been molested. 🙁
Featured image from commons.wikimedia.org