[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Waterland Blog, nor its staff:]

To the City Councilmembers of the City of Des Moines,

I am really disgusted and disappointed by the way the situation with Councilmember Martinelli and his domestic violence charges were handled at the recent city council meeting.

I am a community member working as a Mental Health Therapist. I volunteer on the city’s Human Services Committee. I have over 16 years working exclusively with survivors of domestic violence, including 10 years at DAWN-the agency that serves Des Moines residents. Domestic violence is a complicated issue, I get it. However, what you are doing is extremely dangerous to the survivor in this case. Further, what you are doing is dangerous for other survivors in this community.

For the sake of brevity, I am using perpetrator in place of “alleged perpetrator” and survivor in place of “alleged survivor”. I’m generally not a fan of the way our criminal justice system handles cases of domestic violence. However, as an American citizen, I do hope we are all innocent until proven otherwise.

Councilmembers suggested that community members gain access to the charging documents to “read for themselves” the allegations set forth. The most insidious tactic used by perpetrators of domestic violence is isolation. Councilmembers encouraging public access to the survivor’s thoughts and feelings about what has happened to her, and her words and efforts to gain support for herself is unbelievable. These types of actions suggested will only continue to isolate the survivor and city councilmembers are continuing the abuse and isolation she is experiencing by making these suggestions. It is clear that your intentions are only to punish the perpetrator and your concern for the safety and wellbeing of the survivor is non-existent.

You are sending a message to the survivor that she has no ability to maintain privacy and agency in what happens to her and/or her family. She has repeatedly asked for privacy in this matter which you are blatantly disregarding. You are putting her in danger and opening her up to further abuse by community members and also creating a circumstance where she may not come forward if abuse happens in her relationship in the future. In no way is this the best practice for a public entity to handle communication around DV in their community.

In fact, at the same time that you were speaking about this issue there were other community members discussing the survivor’s situation on Facebook, with many of them discussing the validity of the survivor’s own words. Can any of you imagine public commentary on your personal lives being discussed in this way?

City Councilmembers need to stop the dialogue about this situation in both public and private settings. The councilmembers need to be educated about best practices in communication when a person’s safety is in jeopardy. I would suggest starting with this article that explains why privacy of a survivor’s information is so important: https://www.techsafety.org/privacymatters/. I would also suggest that you reach out to any one of the advocacy agencies in this state that may be able to guide your future communications about this incident. I would suggest starting with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence – WSCADV.

– Sile Grace Matsui, LICSW

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have something you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).