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Things Best Explained By Someone Else – The Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center

June 8, 2009

I’ve been hearing a bit about problems with and political maneuvering over the Memphis (TN) Sexual Assault Resource Center (MSARC), but I have to admit that some of the issues are a little bit too local for me to fully grasp. Luckily, blogger Steve Ross at vibinc has been on it and actually understands what’s going on. Unlike me, he’s in West Tennessee and has a good grasp of the political structure, which is very important to this story.

If I’m understanding correctly, the Center has had some incidents of way less than optimum service for victims – for example, a 14-year-old victim waiting in a parking lot with her mom for 3 hours for the forensic nurse to show up before being told to come back the next day. Then there was some talk that the County might take over the operation from the City, which would maybe give it a new start and place it in line/cooperation with other related and complimentary County services. And then the politicians started having some kind of territorial pissing match, which rarely puts the focus on solving problems where it needs to be.

Let’s let Steve explain. Please do go read his full posts, which are informed and clear in a way that I am not qualified or equipped to be on this topic. He also has links to relevant stories in the Memphis newspaper and other resources that are quite important to this story.

It’s About the Victims (5/29) – “If the City can’t or won’t fix the problem, then they need to cede control to a body that can and will. In the meantime, victims of sexual assault are left with a system that once was a model for care, but has become a victim of neglect.”

Playing Politics with MSARC (6/2) – “The Health Department and Domestic Violence services are currently handled by the County, why not MSARC? Because politicians, activists and the media ‘convoluted the situation’? Are you serious?”

More on MSARC (6/5) – “In this statement the Mayor has CLEARLY stated that he would rather do what is politically expedient for his administration RATHER than do what is, by his own admission, right for MSARC. This is, quite simply, an unbelievable admission.”

MSARC – The Timeline (6/6) – “The Mayor, through his rhetoric, has chosen to personalize the dissent in the community to be about him rather than about serving the victims in the most effective and comprehensive way possible. While most dissent may not have been focused on the Mayor before, his condescending and adversarial posture toward these groups has forced their hand, and helped turn a discussion that should have been about victims to a battle of personalities that never should have entered the conversation. This is a devastating turn of events for the victims.”

Really, go check out Steve’s posts, because even if you don’t understand the Memphis political scene 100%, like me you’re likely to come away with a strong impression that people are playing political games with a complete disregard for the stakes for victims of sexual assault.

Added: Looks like the Center is going to end up under the purview of the County (via the Health Department) after all, which by all accounts sounds like it could be a much-needed improvement. (And, yeah, I found out about that from Steve, too.)

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