A pro-Murray commercial will start airing this week thanks to a $63,000 ad buy by People for a New Seattle Mayor. The ad points out that Mayor Mike McGinn eliminated the office of domestic violence; then it suggests McGinn's decision led to a 60 percent increase of certain domestic violence cases:
"To McGinn, domestic violence just wasn't a priority," says Terri Kimball, the former director of the city's anti-domestic-violence program.
Sounds awful, right? The problem is, funding to prevent domestic violence increased under McGinn.
While it's true that the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention Division was technically eliminated, that's simply because the mayor and city council folded it into another division in the city's Human Services Department, the Community Support and Self Sufficiency Division. The domestic-violence work was protected and remained in the same department, but it occured under a different name.
This happened during the recession when several divisions were combined to save money by making the city's administration more streamlined (Kimball lost her job in the process). Similarly, the Executive Administration Department and the Fleets and Facilities Department were combined into the Finance and Administrative Services Department. But the city's fleet of vehicles itself wasn't eradicated. Likewise, the city's domestic violence division was nixed in name, but the case workers—the fleet, if you will—carried on their work.
In fact, there's more money for domestic-violence work now. During the the dip of the recession, it dropped slightly from $4.2 million in 2010 to $4 million in 2011. But in the next two years, the city's funding for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention increased. None of the case workers were eliminated, according to the mayor's office. Funding for domestic violence returned to $4.2 million and then to $5 million in 2013.
It's accurate but deeply misleading to point out that the domestic violence office was destroyed when the work—and the funding for that work—actually grew under McGinn. Did that decision cause DV case to rise? Police have said they don't know why DV rates jumped. But according to a King County prosecuting attorney who handles domestic violence cases and spoke to KOMO in July, lawmakers recently broadened the scope for DV crimes—certain crimes that were simple assaults now qualify as aggravated assaults, the type of crime that jumped—which, as a result, has contributed to more charges.
Folks can dispute whether the DV office should have been combined with another office. Personally, it seems like we'd want this office to be readily identified by name, and "Community Support and Self Sufficiency Division" doesn't exactly scream to abused women that that's where they need to seek help. But this attack from Murray's backers is bogus by drawing a correlation where it's not clear that one exists and by failing to point out that anti-domestic-violence work was not eliminated—again, its funding grew.
Domestic-violence survivors have endured enough abuse without being used as props in a deceptive, ugly campaign.