⏩ Ann Kil­lion: Ex-girl­friend’s tes­ti­mony is a set­back for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims.

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - ANN KIL­LION

The ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the Reuben Fos­ter case go far beyond this ugly, sor­did in­ci­dent.

On Thurs­day, in dra­matic tes­ti­mony, Fos­ter’s for­mer girl­friend Elissa En­nis said that she made ev­ery­thing up on Feb. 11, when she called 911 and told po­lice and hos­pi­tal work­ers that Fos­ter had beaten her up in his Los Gatos home. She painted her­self as a patho­log­i­cal liar who had tried to bring

false do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charges against a dif­fer­ent boyfriend in 2011.

Was she ly­ing in Feb­ru­ary? Or is she ly­ing now?

If En­nis is ly­ing now, Fos­ter should be pun­ished. If she was ly­ing then — as she claims — En­nis should be se­verely pun­ished. Jail time would be ap­pro­pri­ate. It is hard to over­state the dam­age En­nis has done if her tes­ti­mony is true. What En­nis claims to have done af­fects ev­ery vic­tim, ev­ery sur­vivor of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Her name will be­come a re­but­tal — an ar­gu­ment to all the vic­tims who have the courage to re­port abuse, or con­front their abusers. They will be in dan­ger of be­ing called “Elissa En­nis.” She will be­come a ves­sel of doubt poured over ev­ery case, es­pe­cially those in­volv­ing rich, fa­mous men.

Elissa En­nises are not com­mon. Few peo­ple make false re­ports. But all it takes is one to con­vince many real vic­tims that they won’t be be­lieved.

En­nis’ lawyer ad­vised her not to take the stand, or to take the fifth, prob­a­bly be­cause En­nis could be pun­ished for fil­ing a false re­port. The Santa Clara County judge said she will review all the ev­i­dence

and make a rul­ing next week.

What we know for sure is that we don’t know ex­actly what hap­pened on that day in Feb­ru­ary. On the stand, En­nis said she came back to live with Fos­ter, and even went on a va­ca­tion to Dis­ney World with him, af­ter try­ing to ruin his life. Why would two peo­ple so toxic to each other, who had been or­dered to stay away from each other, do that?

If Fos­ter is in­no­cent, I apol­o­gize for sug­gest­ing the 49ers should have re­leased him. I was bas­ing my be­liefs on the stand­ing of the Santa Clara County dis­trict at­tor­ney, one who has a rep­u­ta­tion for re­straint and has been cau­tious in the past about pur­su­ing charges un­less there was clear ev­i­dence. That rep­u­ta­tion could be se­verely dam­aged now.

I’ve also seen this process play out in pro­fes­sional sports, over and over again. Vic­tims — for what­ever rea­son — choose not to press charges or re­cant or van­ish when it’s time to tes­tify.

In ad­di­tion, the 49ers have fully earned my skep­ti­cism over the years. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has a his­tory of look­ing the other way when one of its tal­ented play­ers gets into crim­i­nal trou­ble. The team’s muted re­sponse in the days fol­low­ing Fos­ter’s ar­rest, and again when charges were filed, still seems strange. No sin­gle voice stood up to be held ac­count­able, even though the team had an enor­mous pub­lic re­la­tions cri­sis on its hands. It was a cri­sis sim­i­lar to those that dam­aged the or­ga­ni­za­tion in the past.

Nin­ers gen­eral man­ager John Lynch fi­nally ad­dressed the is­sue at length in a pre-draft meet­ing. But he re­fused to make it clear whether the team had a pol­icy on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. He con­tin­ued to say the team would deal with cases on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis. But that is more process than pol­icy.

It took until April 26, af­ter the draft, for a clear-cut team pol­icy to be ar­tic­u­lated. That was when 49ers head coach Kyle Shana­han said, “We can prom­ise you guys if there’s some­one who ever hits their sig­nif­i­cant other, their girl­friend, some­thing like that, that per­son’s not go­ing to be on our team. I feel strongly about that. I know John does. I know our own­er­ship does.”

That was the pol­icy I’d been wait­ing to hear. It’s one that hadn’t pre­vi­ously been stated in spe­cific terms. That de­vel­op­ment may be the one silver lin­ing is this ugly sit­u­a­tion.

The 49ers may still be with­out the ser­vices of Fos­ter, no mat­ter what ul­ti­mately comes out of this case. The NFL will not look kindly on the marijuana ar­rest shortly be­fore the South Bay in­ci­dent — since Fos­ter al­ready had a vi­o­la­tion stem­ming from the 2017 draft com­bine — or the weapons charge he picked up that day in Feb­ru­ary. He may face a sus­pen­sion of some sort. He has a pat­tern of mak­ing bad de­ci­sions, and though the 49ers may be celebrating the le­gal de­vel­op­ments in his case, they shouldn’t feel con­fi­dent his trou­bles are be­hind him.

But again, the im­pact of this tes­ti­mony goes far beyond the de­tails of Fos­ter’s case. Far beyond En­nis, as an in­di­vid­ual. The ram­i­fi­ca­tions will be felt by vic­tims ev­ery­where.

Which is a very sad sit­u­a­tion.

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