Posts Tagged ‘Domestic Violence’

On April 21, Quyen Van Tran was in a Safeway store near Monterey when he began abusing his pregnant girlfriend. He was in full view of customers and workers but no one did anything to stop him until a meat clerk, Ryan Young, intervened.

KION, a local news channel in Del Rey Oaks, reports on how Young described the incident:

“Every few seconds he would turn around and push her and then he actually kicked her,” Young said. “I told him to calm down and he was just irate.”

Young said Tran refused to stop and jumped in to stop the assault.

“I saw no one was intervening in the situation and I just became afraid for her safety and also other customers safety,” Young said. “The guy was out of control and pretty much lost it in there.”

Not only did witnesses corroborate Young’s story and applaud his reaction, so did local police. Police Chief Ron Langford said that if Ryan had not intervened, things could have become much worse.

But Safeway didn’t commend its hero-worker. Instead the company suspended Young without pay with Safeway spokeswoman, Wendy Gutshall, making this ambiguous statement:

“Safeway is taking this matter seriously. We have store security video of the incident and have been engaged in a careful and thoughtful forensic review of what transpired.”

It’s been a month since Young has been without work and without pay. Young also has a pregnant wife and he says that earning no wages has been a hardship and a stress on his family. Yet Safeway has not shared any information with him about when or if he can expect to get his job back.

Then last Tuesday, Safeway held a shareholders meeting at which the company’s General Counsel, Robert Gordon, made a sexist joke where he compared Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton to pigs. A blogger, Kaili Joy Gray, posted the joke and an audio clip. The news spread around the internet; Congressmembers heard it and wrote this letter to Safeway asking for an apology:

We are writing to express our strong disapproval of inappropriate comments reportedly made by Safeway General Counsel Robert Gordon at Safeway’s May 15 shareholder meeting. We are deeply disappointed by these comments and believe Safeway must take corrective steps immediately.

According to an audio recording reportedly taken from the shareholder meeting, General Counsel Gordon inappropriately used House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the butt of his joke, as follows:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women.

Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.


Reps. George Miller, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Doris Matsui, Barbara Lee, and Mike Honda

Robert Gordon then made this half-hearted response:

“I sincerely apologize if the opening comments I made at the recent annual stockholders meeting offended anyone. As these comments have been interpreted, they are not a reflection of my personal beliefs or that of my employer. I understand how my comments have impacted others and I hope they will accept my apology.”

As these comments have been interpreted? Huh? Is there some other way to interpret them that I’m not seeing here?

Because of links on the internet, that sexist joke story combined with the Ryan Young story to fuel public awareness about Safeway’s mistreatment of its worker.

A petition on Change.org to get Ryan Young his job back had about 3,000 signatures on Friday. But as of this writing, the petition has grown to 177,630 signatures. Safeway’s Facebook page has also been deluged with comments from customers upset about how Young has been treated.

Yesterday, Safeway came out with another statement in reaction to the public outcry. Here it is in full:

We’ve heard from a lot of customers who don’t feel Mr. Young should have been suspended following an altercation with a customer in our Del Rey store.

We understand this reaction.  We agree that Mr. Young is to be commended for choosing to intervene and come to the defense of the woman involved.

However, a videotape of the entire incident appears to reveal actions we cannot condone.  It is those actions, subsequent to the initial confrontation, that we are trying to understand more clearly.

We wish to be very clear about the fact that Mr. Young was not suspended for coming to the aid of one of our customers.  That action was courageous and correct.

At the same time, we believe we owe it to our employees and our customers to understand as fully as possible everything that took place in this incident.

It is important that we complete a thorough investigation of this incident and respect the process we have in place with the union representing Mr. Young before we reach a decision on his status with our company.

Safeway is obviously indicating that there is something on that video tape, something the public doesn’t know about, something quite separate from Young’s “courageous and correct” action, that somehow justifies suspending Young without pay. It’s curious that Safeway would think that when police condone Young’s actions.

If there is something we don’t know about here, please release the tape, Safeway. Or be more clear about what you have an issue with. Because right now, from your ambiguous statements and slow reactions, it seems like your first priority is to prevent potential lawsuits rather than prevent domestic violence.

What is also disturbing about this story is that Safeway’s fear of getting involved in stopping a crime, its abysmal treatment of Young, is symptomatic of culture that consistently doesn’t get, doesn’t respond to, and doesn’t care much about stopping domestic violence.

Domestic violence is the most common health problem for pregnant women. Do you know how many health problems pregnant women have? And DV is the most common?

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

If DV is so widespread, why do so few people know basic facts about this epidemic?

Part of the reason is that because only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

Survivors are often too ashamed or too frightened to follow through with charges. It’s pretty hard to imagine how survivors have much hope of of getting over being shamed when the people who try to help them also get punished.

That’s actually a major reason why DV is so common: time and again, bystanders look away. People who could help instead decide that DV is none of their business, that it’s a private matter. That intervention taboo exists without even taking into account worry about a lawsuit or job loss.

Nearly three out of four (74%) of us personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. That means you probably know a survivor.

For years, direct service workers in the DV community have been working hard to educate bystanders so more people will do their part to stop the violence.

Right now, Safeway has the opportunity to take a leadership role in educating the public about violence against women. Instead, the company chooses to punish its worker by suspending him without pay and hardly communicating with him for one month.

Please don’t be a passive bystander. Tell Safeway that its behavior is unacceptable. Go to Change.org and sign the petition to get Ryan Young his job back with back pay.

Update: The Mayor of Del Ray Oaks, Jerry B. Edelen, wrote this letter to the Monterey County Herald:

The recent incident involving the Safeway employee who intervened to protect a pregnant woman from being struck by her male companion represents a gross miscarriage of justice on the part of Safeway.

Del Rey Oaks Police Chief Ron Langford, a law enforcement officer with over 30 years of experience, has thoroughly investigated the incident, including viewing a videotape of occurrence, and has concluded that the employee was justified in his actions. Chief Langford has written the employee a letter praising him for his actions.

Of course Safeway has the authority and responsibility to conduct its own investigation. Where Safeway has erred is placing the employee on unpaid leave. This action, in effect, is punitive. By theoretically saving an insignificant amount of money by not paying the employee during the investigation, Safeway is losing considerable sales revenue and customer goodwill. Citing “having to follow set administrative procedures” is no excuse. Leadership means that sometimes standard operating procedures should be modified to ensure justice.

I will place this matter on our next City Council agenda and ask that the council support a resolution praising the Safeway employee for his courageous actions.

Jerry B. Edelen
Del Rey Oaks mayor

(Full disclosure: My father is a former CEO of Safeway. He left the company in 1993 and the board in 2005.)

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Update: If sex really is an addiction, Tiger should have apologized to all the women he used as drugs.

At this morning’s press conference, Tiger said he was sorry to his family, his wife, his kids, his fans, his sponsors, but he left out the more than a dozen women he had sex with. Tiger further objectified these women when he only referred to them in his speech as the “temptations” of power and fame.

Tiger, do you get that women are human? Or does that insight come later in your recovery– around day 56 or so?

When porn star Jocelyn James calls a press conference, flanked by Gloria Allred, it’s challenging to have sympathy for anybody in this story. But Tiger had sex with Jocelyn for three years– along with many other women. What enabled him to do that if she’s so sub-human? At the press conference, Tiger apologized to his wife, as he should, of course; he supposedly loves her. But the skill many men acquire to divide women into wives or whores really creeps me out. If there really is such a thing as sex addiction, this dichotomy must fuel it. I imagine any 12 step recovery program would require that Tiger make amends to those he used as part of his “addiction.”

I’m not saying Rachel Uchitel and the porn stars and models and single moms who slept with Tiger are all victims; they could very well be sex addicts themselves who used Tiger just to get off, get fame, or money. But, as far as I know, they aren’t the ones in intensive recovery programs making public apologies. Tiger is. Maybe he’s not there yet in his program, or maybe his other amends will be as private as he famously is. But it would be nice if Tiger– or Kobe Bryant or Bill Clinton or whomever the latest sex scandal powerguy is– added to his standard mea culpa that he’s sorry for treating women like tissue paper. Because these so called private matters become so public, and I’m sick of seeing women split up into homemaker or homewrecker all over the media. I’d like an apology for subjecting women to that all over again.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday:

Are the rumors true? God, I wish she’d just take 300 million or whatever it is and get out of there.

See what I mean about “wife school?” Stand by your man, cheer him on, no matter what.

Gross. Women are biologically capable of putting up with anything! “Family” is so important to us, nothing else really matters. What a horrible example to all of us married people. A talk show host I used to work with would disagree, he’d say it’s a good move, it shows family values, you stick around no matter what.  And then I would say: but reverse their genders– the story becomes unimaginable.

Young woman golf star falls in love with her friend’s hot “manny.” They marry and have two kids; she keeps winning tournaments and doing endorsements. After a few years of appearing as the perfect family, wife and husband get in a huge, violent fight. He goes after her with one of her golf clubs. Soon after, the public starts to learn she’s been sleeping around, about 15 men come out and claim they were with her, including porn stars and hosts. (Does “hostess” in this context even have a male equivalent meaning?) He takes off his wedding ring and retreats with the kids to his home country. Everyone says he is not the kind of guy to take this behavior, he will get the money he can and divorce her; he’ll never take her back. Photographs show up of her in sex rehab in the South. Then they are

pictured at the rehab together. An announcement is coming tomorrow…

You can see the sexism, too, in how the public reacted to the alleged violent fight; because it was a woman who supposedly attacked a man, even sending him to the hospital, there were jokes about the reports of abuse on Letterman and SNL.  Lots of people were saying, empathically, that whatever happened, it was a private matter; police should just stay out of it and the media should back off and leave the couple alone. But domestic violence isn’t a private matter; it needs to be investigated, not ignored. Victims typically recant their stories. It’s not anyone’s right to let himself get beat up or murdered by his mate. It’s against the law.

So I guess today, Tiger will ask for forgivenss for his sexual indiscretion,  just like Bill Clinton, Ted Haggard, Jim Baker and Kobe Bryant before him. (I think I’ll start a list.) I actually believe in forgiveness, I think it’s a skill you can learn just like any other skill. I learned that at a class I took at Stanford taught by Fred Luskin; the class was amazing. Also, anyone who has ever been through a 12 step program knows forgiveness is a crucial step towards recovery, for totally selfish reasons, you must forgive to get well. Forgiveness, by the way, doesn’t mean Elin has to stay with Tiger, or that anyone has to stay with anyone. It means you get to move on with your life and devote your considerable energy to something else instead of nurturing the grudges you were clinging on to for years.

My issue with Tiger and Elin is really that I am so sick of this same, old story, just watching it again again, the version I get of it, as a person in the world, the repetitive scenario: the cheating, powerful guy and his loyal wife. It bores me. I’m so tired of it. I want a new narrative. And I don’t mean the occasional exception (I’m trying to think of a powerful woman that’s cheated and her husband and he’s taken her back after public humiliation to insert here.) I want new archetypes, repeated upon centuries and ingrained into our subconscious, then translated back into our stories, movies, lives, and tabloids. I’m craving something original.

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