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Letting Murray stay in office is turning a blind eye to abuse

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces the end of his campaign for re-election at Alki Bath House along Alki Beach in West Seattle, Washington on May 9. Credit: Matt Mills McKnight/Crosscut

Thirty-three years ago I was a sophomore in high school when one night, I sat up in bed crying. For some reason, I had just remembered that when I was 4 years old I was molested by a family friend. The people entrusted with my care abused that trust and exploited my vulnerability.

Mayor Ed Murray has now been accused of child rape by several individuals. They can’t prove what he did, but the Oregon Department of Child Protective Services — the state agency responsible for ensuring the safety of the state’s foster children — declared him ineligible to serve as a foster parent. The department’s investigator concluded that the alleged sexual abuse with one young person did occur. It’s time for Ed Murray to resign.

My mom had me when she was 19 years old. She had no college degree and she divorced when I was two and worked two to three jobs to pay the bills. Mom often worked nights, leaving me with folks she trusted — parents of Mom’s high school friend — so she could do what she had to to take care of me. On those nights I had to stay late or stay over, her friend’s father molested me.

My abuser was never held accountable by me or my family. He died by the time I remembered what happened. But the fact that this abuse happened more than a decade before I remembered it does not make it any less real. The fact that there was no criminal investigation does not mean it didn’t happen. Nor does it diminish my abuser’s moral turpitude. He was vile. He was depraved. His conduct violated the standards of our community.

Survivors of abuse, particularly children, are in vulnerable situations. They have no power. They often come from families with a history of abuse. My mother herself was molested when she was a child.

It is unconscionable that our council president claims that since this happened 33 years ago and the mayor continues to “show up” for work, we should just move on. Article V, Section 10 of the City Charter regarding ‘Removal of Mayor’ states [emphasis added]:

The Mayor may be removed from office after a hearing, for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude, upon written notice from the City Council at least five days before the hearing. He or she shall have the right to be present, to the aid of counsel, to offer evidence and to be heard in his or her own behalf. Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members of the City Council, acting as a court of impeachment, the office shall become vacant.’

There are two standards here: violation of mayoral duties and moral turpitude. Just because Murray does not meet one standard, that doesn’t mean the other can be dismissed. The Oregon agency concluded that he committed the offense of sexually abusing a foster child. Article V of the city charter does not require “judicial findings” of the offense, and if we are not going to believe the state agencies entrusted to watch over these children, why have them?

I was lucky — I forgot the experience for years. I did not endure violent abuse. Instead, just regular molestation that was clearly planned for the times I would be staying in the home for extended periods and while the friend’s mother was busy. My abuser was lucky too. He died before he could be held accountable for what he did to me, a child who trusted him.

Ed Murray needs to be held accountable for his moral turpitude. If the Seattle City Council won’t act to remove him from office, then the people of Seattle need to demand his resignation.

Editor’s note: Tammy Morales ran against Bruce Harrell for the Seattle City Council District 2 seat in 2015.

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