Until this week, motorists, pedalers and pedestrians passing through downtown San Francisco’s South of Market district will be confronting a reminder: Domestic violence is NEVER a private matter.
Those who speak Spanish will read: La violencia domestica NUNCA es un asunto privado. Below the statement is hotline for help in abusive relationships.
The Harrison Street billboard is a project of local shelter La Casa de Las Madres, the national organization Futures Without Violence, and the S.F. Domestic Violence Consortium, whose officers held a news conference at the site. Its installation was prompted by a statement made by former Supervisor and now Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who is accused of bruising his wife in front of their 2-year-old son on New Year’s Eve. Both emphatically deny the charges. The trial began Feb. 24.
Victim advocates believe the case opens opportunity for education.
“The billboard is intended to shine a light on what anti-domestic violence advocates consider to be Sheriff Mirkarimi’s inappropriate and disturbingly cavalier response to the charges of domestic battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness against him,” said an announcement on the shelter website. “Regardless of guilt or innocence, the media spotlight on domestic violence creates an important teaching moment. Domestic violence remains a deeply misunderstood issue.”
“We need to teach the next generation that violence is wrong, that abusive behavior is not to be tolerated and that there is absolutely no excuse for domestic violence,” said Leni Marin, FWV senior vice president. “We need to ensure the victim’s safety and support witnesses who come forward and report this problem.”
La Casa de las Madres raised $6500 for the two billboards through the internet via a local startup called Loudsauce.
No official was seen at the unveiling.
Mayor Ed Lee, with whom the advocates had met earlier to use his ‘moral authority’ to ask Mirkarimi to step aside pending investigation, called the case “serious” but declined further comment because of potential participation in the judicial process. The same caution was aired by members of the board of supervisors upon recommendation of the city attorney.
“Anything that’s calling attention to the issue of domestic violence is good, but maybe there’s been a reluctance to speak about the issue because we might have to weigh in on it,” newest Supervisor Cristina Olague, whom Lee had appointed to succeed Mirkarimi, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It doesn’t mean we’re not sympathetic to it or sensitive to it.”
Beverly Upton, executive director of the Domestic Violence Consortium, was not impressed by the statement, saying officials may comment on domestic violence as a public issue without directly addressing the Mirkarimi case.
Domestic violence prevention groups in San Francisco have had a long history of collaboration with local law enforcement.
The billboard intends to build on those accomplishments, according to the La Casa de las Madres statement.
“It boldly says that San Francisco will not rewind the clock, that domestic violence is a serious issue. That together, we can counteract the paucity of San Francisco public officials making a stand or taking action to correct the public perception that San Francisco has a cavalier attitude toward domestic violence.”
Marin, a pioneer in the field, put the matter in perspective.
“Domestic violence is a public health issue and public safety issue. It can cause health problems that last a lifetime. Domestic violence is also a public safety issue. It shatters every community’s well-being and its ability to thrive. Victims, witnesses, and bystanders are affected and can suffer pain and loss.” Her remarks delivered at the news conference are reprinted in full in Editorial.
For help in or information about domestic abusive, call La Casa de las Madres Adult Crisis Line: 1-877-503-1850 – statewide, toll free, 24 hours; Teen Crisis Line: 1-877-923-0700 – statewide, toll free, 24 hours; Counseling and Supportive Services: 1-415-503-0500. For a shelter or counseling in your state, call the National Domestic Violence hotline: 800.621.HOPE (4673)