Getting gas at Costco yesterday, I saw something surprising. There seemed to be a confrontation that a fellow customer and a Costco worker were trying to keep light as they tried to convince a man to put out his cigarette. The man, probably in his late 50s, was smoking while filling his tank, and he appeared to be shocked when asked to put out his cigarette. He claimed to never have been asked to do this before, as the other customer and Costco worker explained that if ignited, the place would blow up. All I could think was, “is this really the Bay Area in 2012?” (As if to answer that and make good on the typical image of California, once the guy put out his cigarette, the other customer tried to turn it into an intervention to get the guy to quit smoking for health reasons.)
Today I was surprised again as I read that an assistant swim coach for Cal’s women’s team was recently banned from leading a clinic at the Moraga Country Club – the place where she learned to swim and her parents are members – after she came out as a sexual abuse survivor. Kristen Cunnane was molested in the mid-90s by her P.E. teacher, who likely took note that the school wasn’t properly handling molestation charges by students against a science teacher at the same school after the school principal didn’t act on multiple reports. It’s a horrible, complicated story where the bottom line is that adults in authority positions hurt children, no one did anything about it, and somehow the school district managed to maintain this as a secret until recently, when it was blown open. Last week, the Moraga police decided that the statute of limitations had run out, and the principal will not be charged with failure to report the abuse.
This is sad and shameful, especially because when dealing with sexual abuse of children, the statute of limitations clause is bogus. The rippling effects of sexual molestation don’t end after a handful of years, thus the ability to punish someone who contributed to that shouldn’t end either, especially because at the time of the victimization, the child isn’t always in a position to get help and press charges. What the principal, and now the Moraga Country Club are doing is sending a message that victims should be shamed. Coming forward is punishable, either by being ignored or by shaming, which is what the county club is doing, by denying the highly qualified Cunnane the ability to lead a swim clinic at the same place where she used to swim. According to reports, the country club board has members close to the principal and allowing the clinic to happen would appear to be choosing sides. The swim clinic had nothing to do with the principal or the abuse. And even if it did, when is choosing the side of a victim wrong? This is a few privileged white people putting their heads in the sand.
This is the Bay Area in 2012.