Coun­cil­woman says she’s the tar­get of ‘sex­ist’ ha­rass­ment

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY NICK WIL­SON

All five Morro Bay City Coun­cil mem­bers, in­clud­ing one ac­tive in the lo­cal Women’s March chap­ter, spoke out at a meet­ing Wed­nes­day night against a lo­cal man who al­legedly sent ha­rass­ing and an­noy­ing emails, in­clud­ing com­ments of a sex­ual and gen­der-based na­ture called “misog­y­nis­tic as­saults.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Dawn Ad­dis read a pub­lic state­ment aloud at the start of the meet­ing, say­ing she didn’t want to stay silent about of­fen­sive and harm­ful at­tacks, which in­cluded mul­ti­ple in­sult­ing emails that made ref­er­ences to fe­male anatomy, sug­gested Ad­dis get a job as a pole dancer and in­cluded an im­age of a Nazi flag, im­ply­ing the coun­cil mem­ber was a Nazi.

Morro Bay po­lice Chief Joseph “Jody” Cox has iden­ti­fied the man as 65-year-old Morro Bay res­i­dent Mark Charles Han­son.

“An­noy­ing/ ha­rass­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions have been re­ceived by all mem­bers of coun­cil (from Han­son),” Cox said in a text to The Tri­bune.

Cox said po­lice have com­piled a re­port and rec­om­mended charges to the San Luis Obispo County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice that Han­son made ha­rass­ing and an­noy­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a mis­de­mean-

or crime un­der the Cal­i­for­nia pe­nal code. The case cur­rently is un­der re­view by the DA’s Of­fice, Cox told The Tri­bune.

“When women and oth­ers take the chance to share our voices and lead­er­ship in pub­lic ways, we should be able to do with­out vi­cious at­tacks,” Ad­dis said at the coun­cil meet­ing. “... When women and other vic­tims speak truth, we am­plify our power. Si­lence and fear do not help us and do not help those who will face abuse af­ter us.”

Ad­dis said her rea­son for ad­dress­ing “sex­ist crit­i­cism” pub­licly is to “day­light my real ex­pe­ri­ence as a woman in lo­cal of­fice in 2019.”

Han­son told The Tri­bune in a phone con­ver­sa­tion that he sent the emails to ex­press the “dis­dain” that he and oth­ers have for the City Coun­cil mem­bers, say­ing he doesn’t be­lieve they’re lis­ten­ing to the peo­ple of Morro Bay on plans for a new waste­water treat­ment plant at High­way 1 and South Bay Boule­vard.

“Try­ing to be civil and ne­go­ti­ate with them doesn’t work,” Han­son said. “This is the way we see them. ... This is to get them to some­day wake up.”

Han­son said he stopped his emails to the coun­cil af­ter a po­lice sergeant spoke with him about it. But he said he’d con­tinue com­ment­ing on so­cial me­dia.

“I spoke to the sergeant, who said it wasn’t clear (whether a law was be­ing bro­ken),” Han­son said. “I think I have the right to voice my opin­ion so they know our feel­ings.”

Ad­dis also has been ac­tive in the Women’s March move­ment, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pre­vi­ously re­ceived hate­ful at­tacks by a San Luis Obispo man named Daniel Phares, who was con­victed in court of a mis­de­meanor charge of mak­ing a crim­i­nal threat. He wrote, “I will kill ev­ery one of you and make you like it,” on the Face­book page of an Au­gust 2017 vigil to honor peo­ple af­fected by the vi­o­lent protests last year in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Han­son al­legedly sent emails to Ad­dis di­rectly that in­cluded call­ing her “one of the most vile, de­spi­ca­ble, hyp­o­crit­i­cal (ex­ple­tive re­fer­ring to fe­male anatomy) I have ever had the dis­plea­sure of see­ing,” (ac­com­pa­nied with a Nazi flag), telling her she “doesn’t have the ovaries to re­spond to me di­rectly” af­ter com­mu­ni­cat­ing the mes­sages with a fel­low coun­cil mem­ber and threat­en­ing to con­tinue the at­tacks if she didn’t change her po­si­tion on a city pol­icy. The note said call­ing au­thor­i­ties about the emails was “weak and child­ish.”

Ad­dis said she re­searched the man’s Face­book com­ments and learned he had posted about her on the so­cial me­dia site as well, where he wrote: “She ap­pears to be an at­trac­tive woman. Maybe can can get a job as a pole dancer.”

“I also learned that this per­son has re­searched my back­ground,” Ad­dis said in her state­ment. “I be­lieve he knows where I live.”

Mayor John Headding said his ex­pe­ri­ence wasn’t gen­der-based, but he en­coun­tered threat­en­ing com­ments that he be­lieves are un­ac­cept­able pub­lic dis­course.

“I have ex­pe­ri­enced in my mind the cross­ing over be­tween pas­sion to ag­gres­sion and ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior, and what I con­sider to be hate lan­guage,” Headding said.

Headding added he re­ceived five emails of a sim­i­lar nasty na­ture from the man

“They are in my opin­ion, not only vul­gar and full of hate and ve­he­mence, but mis­rep­re­sent what this com­mu­nity is all about, and I have zero tol­er­ance for this type of be­hav­ior,” Headding said.

Coun­cil mem­ber Marlys McPher­son said she ex­pe­ri­enced many of the com­ments Ad­dis has, call­ing them “vile, evil state­ments.”

“Other coun­cil mem­bers have re­ceived the same types of emails from this in­di­vid­ual,” McPher­son. “... I felt the state­ments bor­dered on li­bel — many un­true, vile, evil state­ments that no one should have to read or tol­er­ate. ... We are tak­ing ac­tion (with po­lice) to get this to stop.”

Ad­dis said she felt com­pelled to speak out, adding that si­lence would only al­low the at­tacks to worsen and cause harm, not­ing women have faced hurt­ful sit­u­a­tions in the past to the detri­ment of so­ci­ety.

“I’m not naive or a stranger to trolls,” Ad­dis said. “The #MeToo and #WhyIDid­ntRe­port move­ments are my lived ex­pe­ri­ences. Dur­ing my cam­paign, I faced sex­ist crit­i­cism and didn’t let it stop me. Still, I was shocked at the gen­der-based ag­gres­sion di­rected at me.”

Ad­dis said gen­der­based ha­rass­ment is too of­ten the cause of women be­ing si­lenced, cit­ing sta­tis­tics that show that on­line abuse of women is of­ten “misog­y­nis­tic or sex­ist in na­ture.”

“Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Women, even small acts of sex­ism can ‘make us doubt our­selves, whether we’re sec­ondguess­ing a great idea, feel­ing self-con­scious about our bod­ies or re­ceiv­ing less pay or less re­spect,’” Ad­dis said.

Coun­cil mem­bers Red Davis and Jeff Heller also spoke out Wed­nes­day against the at­tacks, uni­fy­ing the coun­cil’s po­si­tion on the is­sue.



Mark Charles Han­son

Dawn Ad­dis

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