Sand Diego Mayor Bob Filner. (AP Photo)
This is part eight in my series on the global epidemic of violence against women. (Here are my posts on Serena Williams’s victim-blaming, the sexual assaults happening in Egypt, the forced sterilization of incarcerated women in California, rape and social media, George Zimmerman’s prior acts of violence against women, mobile apps to end sexual violence, and a review of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.)
The storyline has become all too familiar: a well-known politician is accused of sexual harassment by several women; he first plays defense (a public denial), then goes on the offensive (a public apology), and finally, admits to past behavior and pledges to get “help.”
That’s been exactly the path for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Recently, seven women, ranging from a retired Navy rear-admiral, a dean at San Diego State University, and the head of the Port Tenants Association, have publicly come forward to accuse the mayor of sexual harassment.
During his press conference last Friday, Filner said, “I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and…at times I have intimidated them.” His solution: two weeks of intensive therapy at a behavior-counseling clinic starting on August 5.
Though he acknowledged disrespecting women, Filner stopped short of admitting to sexual harassment. Instead, he deflected our attention away from the psychological and social harm that sexual harassers inflict on their victims to understanding his sexual harassment as something for which he can recieve medical help.
Though Filner has yet to disclose having an actual disorder, his rehab stint suggests that he believes his behavior can be medically diagnosed. This too conforms to another pattern of high-profile sexual harrasment claims. Just this month, show biz CEO Richard Nanula resigned from his post as chairman of the boad at Miramax after a co-worker claimed sexual harrassment. His defense: he was previously treated for sex addiction.