Mirkarimi case: Eliana Lopez friend and defender Myrna Melgar responds to critics

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The media has missed some points in the Mirkarimi debate
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS

My opinion piece regarding the plight of my friend Eliana Lopez and San Francisco’s approach to handling domestic violence in her case has generated a lot of discussion since it was printed last week. I have heard from a lot of folks who tell me that it has challenged their assumptions about the particular situation but also about the unintended outcomes of handling all domestic violence through the criminal justice system. It has also generated quite a bit of defensiveness from some anti-domestic violence advocates, who have suggested that questioning their methods is an attack on their goals – it is not, and people who dedicate themselves to helping victims of domestic violence have my very highest respect and admiration.

So allow me elaborate that a little further on that point:

No one is advocating for the return to the bad old days when we looked away from the abuse of women. I am pointing out that for many, having the police automatically open a criminal investigation, regardless of the nature of the problem, which is then followed by prosecution, is a strong deterrent to seeking help.  Defining progress by rates of conviction while we know that more than half of domestic abuse incidents go unreported suggests that something in our approach is not working. 

Domestic violence seldom begins with a murder. It usually begins with the putdowns, the sarcasm, the psychological and emotional abuse, and then, often, to escalating levels of physical abuse. Of course, not every guy who makes sarcastic remarks will eventually hit his girlfriend. Instead of opening a criminal case when the first call comes in from an affected party or a well-meaning neighbor, how about we create a support system within mental health and family support that has a trained health professionals who can answer questions and guide a path to rehabilitation?  

San Francisco has led the way in showing the country how an integrated, public health-oriented healthcare system, community rooted and accessible to all, ought to be run.  We have the technology already to share data among health care professionals that can be immediately transferred to criminal justice professionals when needed.  A system that has only one gear -- criminal prosecution -- that treats women as children, robs them of their voice and their rights, and renders them incapable of making their own decisions at the slightest evidence or even accusation of abuse is a system that needs to evolve.  We can do better. We need to stop domestic violence while at the same time working towards equal rights and the empowerment of all women individually and as a whole. Those two things must never be mutually exclusive goals.

Despite the strong reactions my opinion has generated in the past week among people who defend the current system, no one has addressed the problem that the zero-tolerance criminalization approach has created in communities where there is fear of the police. It seems that everyone wants to talk about Eliana Lopez, mostly as an appendage of Ross Mirkarimi, but the many women facing this issue remain seemingly invisible in this conversation, their fears and issues unaddressed.  I have heard from immigrants’ rights advocates that they have been voicing these concerns for years, and have gotten nowhere within the domestic violence community. We can do better.

In her essay on March 29 in the Huffington Post, Andrea Shorter of the Commission on the Status of Women explains that the current system for dealing with domestic violence came about as the implementation of 84 recommendations by a group of advocates in response to the gruesome 2000 murder of an Asian immigrant woman at the hands of her boyfriend. In the past 12 years, great progress has been made in reducing domestic violence related homicide rates, both in San Francisco and across the country.

But 12 years is a long time, and a critical look at the system that we have created is needed. It's important to note that immigrant women are still overrepresented in the domestic-violence homicide statistics in San Francisco. We can do better. We need a system that is both capable of responding quickly and decisively to cases where women’s security or lives are at stake, but of also handling the far more numerous and ambiguous cases in which domestic troubles have not reached that point, but in which families need help to make sure that they do not.

Finally, I feel I must address a couple of the specific accusations that have been made that are just not true. I have never worked for Ross Mirkarimi. I didn’t even contribute to his campaign. (It is, after all, possible for a woman to have an opinion independent of a man’s agenda). I care about my friend Eliana, and the issue of domestic violence. My interest was in addressing what I saw as an thoughtless reaction both by our government and much of our media, which produced results that were needlessly cruel and counter-productive to the people directly involved, and that also, ironically given the supposed purpose of the whole exercise, sent a bad message on how to respond to domestic violence.

Comments

a left-winger got shafted by the DV process. If a Republican had suffered the same way, there would be no sense of "outrage" here.

The simple fact is that experience has taught us that DV has to be a zero-tolerance policy. There is nothing to stop Ross and Eliana getting back together if they choose to. What's at issue here is that we should not be making exceptions to the DV procedures just because Ross is a left-wing darling or because Eliana is hispanic.

Neither Ross nor Eliana have behaved with integrity here. Ross has lied and dodged, while Eliana has been micro-managing her approach to optimise her future alimony.

But you'd be a lot more credible if your outrage about the DV system had been caused by someone that you are not politically and personally sympathetic to.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 1:19 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

By the same token, you are mainly interested in going after Ross because he is a progressive, no? From the start of this trial by media, I have been perpetually astounded by the arrogant conclusions of people who do not even know this couple. So what the hell would any of you know about their motives? Purportedly, Eliana is a successful actress with much more beautiful digs in Venezuela than she enjoys in SF. So I doubt that she really needs the alimony. Why not recognize that you know little or nothing about these people. And if that's true, then why pretend that you know who they are or what they want? Face it, you don't jack shit. The real explanation is that you are projecting your own selfish traits on others. Shame on you for not recognizing it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 5:59 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

But you know who supported Ross's progressive campaign and did know them as friends? Ivory Madison. Can't attribute the Great Eternal San Francisco Anti-Progressive Conspiracy to her, right?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:24 am

I discussed it at length with our callers and listeners and you can hear the program by going to the www.kgoradio.com archives..Sunday April 1 1pm through 4 pm..the first hour is directly about your piece..the second has an interview with Eliana's lawyer, Paula Canny. the program will be available to download ..through this week.

I too have received threats for daring to suggest that common sense and a sense of proportionality is needed in a case where there was NO beating, hitting, bloodying, breaking...just a bicep bruise incurred when two passionate people were having a heated argument about different views of the safety of their child.

I would be with you in the streets protesting if someone who was actually a legitimate victim of domestic violence could not find justice. That isn't the case here. and the domestic violence mavens threatening me and others have gone off the deep end...not just harpies, but banshees, playing a major role in destroying a family....I'd call that domestic violence.

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

While dismissing Eliana's injuries as "just" a bicep bruise when two passionate people were debating is deeply insulting to the victims of domestic violence everywhere.

You seem determined to belittle violence like this for no reason other than a political affinity with the perp. Not close to being good enough, Craft.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

Actually, I've had many threats, including death threats over the years. This is not particularly unique. It happens to many talk show hosts. I always take it seriously.

When I suggested that if Rodney King had been white and the cops black, the verdict in the first trial would have been different, I had nightly escorts home from the radio station with law enforcement.

When I questioned the railroading of a Mexican nanny in a shaken-baby case, I received specific death threats in my home mail box. The nanny was eventually freed.

Imagine if someone left threatening messages for you on your car, or at your home, or in the mail...would you find that just an amusing circumstance? an hyperbole?

I'm betting you'd be wearing extra underwear....really.

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

comments about Ross's DV, as I stated.

Thanks for clearing that up despite the tangential obfuscations.

Oh, and if you could be a little elss full of yourself, you'd be more credible.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

the lawyers in the case have also received threats.

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

Wanna obfuscate your lie any more?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

What threats have the lawyers received?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:25 am

for the record, I don't share his politics. To me, the word"progressive" is a wimp word for liberals who have been intimidated..

I do not believe that every sperm is sacred or that every bruise a batterer makes. The world is less absolute than you believe. Most of everything is neither wrong , nor right, but rather at some degree between the two.

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 3:45 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

Shamelessly selling her show for insomniacs.

Since you are a lawyer, I am having trouble understanding how you don't get the concept that he didn't plead out to causing a bicep bruise, but falsely imprisoning his wife. Personally I think that is probably even worse- detaining someone against their will, apparently because you were afraid they would go to the police and talk about the big bruise you caused. That shows he KNEW what he did was wrong.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 7:54 am

for the record..I do occasional fill-in shows on one San Francisco radio station.as well as programs on other stations, outside of San Francisco. I'm not part of the ratings game that regular hosts are, so I'm not pimping "my" show. That said, and let me say it again, I have received threats designed to keep me from talking about this case. You can call that a lie, or a prevarication(please enlighten us as to the differences) if you wish, but that doesn't change the fact. Threats of all sorts are common experiences for radio hosts. Usually it's just designed to get you to shut up. I always take them seriously.
In this matter, the lawyers have also received nasty letters and emails and threats.That's just a fact.
I can't say who authored them and neither can you.

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:27 am

How convenient for you, "Craft".

Still not buying it though.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 10:11 am

in progressives complaining about an all-encompassing justice system which doesn't differentiate between degrees of violence when it comes to domestic situations - considering that it was progressives who demanded the system in the first place.

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

et al would be smugly congratulating themselves on how effective these liberal DV laws are in providing protection for "women of color" (to use that miserable phrase).

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

As a survivor of domestic violence (emotional, physical, sexual), which I experienced from 15 years old - 19 years old, the Mirkarimi case was blown WAY out of proportion! I get bruises on my arms & legs from bumping into tables & such. They in no way are similar to the beatings I endured. I'm only here today because my abuser died of AIDS in 1987. My Mother & I have been following this case with abject disbelief.
Eliana has stated that she NEVER wanted charges pressed, but wanted to go to counseling to try to save the family. I knew that the reason she had the nosey neighbor take the video was for a possible custody battle.
This is the difference between real abuse and a passionate fight. Those whom have lived the terror of a violently abusive man know that Mirkarimi is not an abuser. For a true abuser would hunt you down and kill you for the public becoming aware of the problem. That, is a truth I lived everyday for 4 years. Abusive men don't allow their 'woman' to speak to others w/o their approval. They treat you as a possession & often have you on a pedestal, where if you do anything they perceive as wrong you get beat.
If you have never feared for your life from another human, you do not know of that which you speak.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

Even Ross din't try that cheap shot.

Passionate fight, my ass. Ross seized and constrained her so hard that blood clotted beneath her skin. He told her that "she didn't deserve to eat" and that "he is a powerful man".

That's abuse, plain and simple.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

was said or what wasn't said.?..did you think hearsay was fact?

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

and that neither Ross not Eliana have denied that Ross caused it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

Christine, is it your contention that Eliana Lopez didn't say Ross Mirkarimi bruised her, and on more than one occasion?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:26 am

Because Mirkarimi ONLY caused a big bruise and ONLY held his wife against her will that he is not a real abuser????? I am all for a good passionate fight with your spouse- perhaps followed up by so passionate making up, but it stops being passionate when there are marks left and when someone is not allowed out of the house. That is abuse.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 7:57 am

Wow! You really need help. Your ignorance of the cycle of violence is on full display here and I am afraid you will be damned to repeat this cycle, much like Eliana, if you do not educate yourself. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your children or the children you will have because if they witness it, they will be damaged. A "true abuser" has nothing to do with the degree of violent he or she inflicts. Your defense of your ignorance that you are a victim is either disingenuous or, as I stated above, still shrouded in ignorance. This is coming from a survivor of DV myself. Don't look to cases like this or Ms. Melgar for what DV is or is not. Educate yourself.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

For me, the "zero-tolerance criminalization approach" you mention only seems to apply to political rivals of the mayor.

I would personally not mind at all a zero tolerance approach that was in fact equally applied to all accused.

My problem is that zero tolerance is focused like a political weapon at progressives.

You don't see these "anti-domestic violence groups" saying a word about the Fire Chief, for instance, or a long line of others who are politically more acceptable to the establishment.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

If a "powerful", connected, white man like Ross gets convicted of abusing an immigrant, hispanic woman then clearly the system works for everyone.

Would you rather the rich, powerful white guy got off?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

Tell the Fire Chief.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

at some point in time gotten away with something?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

No. The Fire Chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor and can be replaced for any reason or for no reason at all.

For the mayor to announce zero tolerance but then say it only applies to the Sheriff is inane.

We should extend zero tolerance to everyone, not just political rivals of the mayor.

For progressives it is zero tolerance.

For anyone under the protection of the mayor it is "victim recants."

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/06/21/BAGASDBM771.DTL

Fire chief’s husband is taking it all back
He plans to recant saying she struck him on the head
Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

She should resign. Same standard applies to Mirkarimi. He was convicted - therefore he should resign.

See how easy that is?

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:42 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

Yeah problem.

If the mayor is on his warpath on domestic violence the first place he should look....

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

If a powerful white male cannot get away with abusing a female hispanic immigrant, we KNOW the system is working well.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

We need a straight white man like C.W. Nevius to set the rest of us str8 as it were.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

convicted of abusing hispanic immigrants?

Interesting POV for a supposed liberal to take,

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

I have problems with C.W. Nevius, a straight white male who has access to the most political power and privilege, speaking for what is right for a woman of any ethnicity on any issue, especially domestic violence and keeping her family together.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

"powerful" white male has committed violence against a woman of color or not.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

Of course he is entitled to his opinion. It is just crass and abusive of his power and privilege for him to opine. What else do you expect from a political gossip columnist?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

witlessly opine about others?

Difference is, Nevius is smart enough to get paid for it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

It is night time now, and by agreeing with Melgar's piece by applying it to C.W. Nevius' gossip dronings really proves her point.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

Don't talk about Tim Redmond that way!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:29 am

"...who has access to the most political power and privilege..."

Like what? A terrible column in a dying newspaper?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:29 am

A straight white man like Ross Mirkarimi?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 8:28 am

C.W. Nevius is a complete idiot. Should've kept to sports, where he could do little damage.
His idiotic column on Melgar andLopez, one of a bunch of wrong-headed, sophomoric, ill-informed, self-satisfied oatmeal smoothies to the philistines got it all wrong. The system did not work all right. It went haywire.

A couple had an end of the world fight. Period. She goes to a neighbor the next day--and by, the way, she was never imprisoned as that apartment has a front andback door--and sets a chain of eventsin motion.
The D.A., a political weenie, sends six investigators, more than are ever used in homicide cases, to the Mirkarimi block to interview neighbors. By the way, the sainted Ivory Madison talked to no less than four friends in the four days that she spent deciding whether to go to the police or not, one of them being the former idiot-in-chief of the Chronicle, Phil Bronstein.
So much of what has been written got it wrong. Madison never, ever "refused" to hand over the tape to police. She brought it to the police. Yes, she brought it. After the fact, as a legal thing, they said they "confiscated" thetape and cell. Not true in the real world. Anyway, back to Nevius, who has apparently never done any reporting at all in his life, just spouts off whatever is at the top of that little bitty brain of his--he sketches how everything went just right in this case. The system worked. He's a f$king fool, and anyone who thinks otherwise should be sentenced to reading the Chronicle for as long as it exists, which I hope is not long at all. Worst journalism ever.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 11:19 am

somehow you think that means that a crime didn't really happen?

Hell, even Ross admits he committed a crime, so why can't you?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 11:37 am

Madison witnessed nothing, except free advertising for her business.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

admitting that Ross had caused it in a violent act, even if she did later see more mileage in keeping quiet.

Madison also presumably had seen Ross and Eliana arguing together and had observed the decline in their relationship and the extent of Ross's growing abuse and anger problems.

In fact, it's hard to think of who would have been a more knowledgeable and credible witness to Ross's crimes.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

very attractive, advertises herself as highly legally-trained,even a stint at the Cal supremes...also authoress of female vengeance superhero comic books..Why is her husband keeping her in a figurative"ivory tower"?? Let her out Abraham...let her speak for herself!! by golly.We've seen you speak for her in that infamous chronicle piece. Can she not talk without you present?

Did she suggest to Eliana to make such a tape as legal insurance against any future custody fight over taking the child out of the country??? Eliana says so.

Ivory, are you being falsely imprisoned?

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 4:24 pm