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Antiabuse advocate is asked to retract 'attack'

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Robin Finn Harney, who is writing for himself and not representing any organization.

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I am writing in response to the June 1 letter by Elaine Shea, “Embrace Diversity without Divisiveness." In her letter, Shea leverages her position as a domestic-abuse victims’ advocate to undermine local attempts to hold Lt. Rick Pedrini accountable. According to public records, Pedrini has published racist writings on multiple occasions, and has faced multiple restraining orders and at least one complaint of harassment.

Well into the restorative-justice process, he remained a member of several right-wing extremist Facebook groups. There is no question that Pedrini verbally abused minority groups in his writings, and his disciplinary record suggests a larger pattern of abusive behavior.

As Shea must know, when abusers are exposed, their communities often rally to protect them from consequences. We see this in Chapdelaine’s refusal to pursue appropriate consequences for Pedrini, his insistence that firing him would be “impossible” while obscuring the fact that at least five officers have been fired in Massachusetts for similar offenses in recent years, and his inexcusable delay in naming the writings as racist.

'Cover-up'

We see this in the Town of Arlington’s cover-up of Pedrini’s disciplinary history as well as in Select Board member Diane Mahon’s recent attempts to paint the APD as a “model” police department. Abusers’ communities often continue to support them, as we see in former Chief Ryan’s reports that members of the APD allegedly presented Pedrini with an award while he was on leave.

Shea weaponized her expertise in the area of domestic abuse to attack a group of people attempting to hold an abuser accountable — group which includes abuse survivors and targets of Pedrini’s hate. In doing so, Elaine further harmed these people. She accused Arlington Fights Racism of “hostile accusations,” which she did not substantiate.

She claims AFR “questioned our town manager’s integrity” for rightly criticizing his poor handling of the situation. She alludes to her work teaching abuse victims to “trust their gut,” and then claims her “gut is unsettled” by antiracist work — a subtle attempt to cast targets of oppression and their allies as the real abusers.

She sidesteps the reality that sometimes our “gut” tells us the wrong thing — as evidenced in research on implicit bias, and in the knee-jerk desire to disbelieve victims of abuse. In other words, Shea engages in the same tactics that abusers and their enablers use to silence victims. Silence is more comfortable, but silence does not make anyone safer.

'Comforting, useless'

Shea claims to care about racism in Arlington, yet discredits activists without offering any workable alternatives. She fails to explain how her “UPSTANDER” bracelets will solve the problem of abusive, bigoted men being insulated from consequence. (Remember 2016, when we tried to fix Trump’s racism by wearing safety pins?) Her “UPSTANDER” idea is comforting, but useless.

In short, Shea’s letter harms targets of Pedrini’s hate, as well as their allies, and instead casts them as the problem. In this way, she encourages victim-blaming and a culture of silence, and she builds the conditions for future violence. As long as her words stand, she is acting as an enabler.

Coming from someone with her expertise in the field, this is inexcusable. I can only hope that she was simply ignorant of the facts, in which case I am sure she would be eager to set things right.

For these reasons, I call on Elaine Shea to publish a retraction of her earlier letter, along with an apology for those community members she has harmed.


This letter was published Sunday, July 5, 2020.

If you want to comment on any of them, please do so in the Comment window below using your full name.

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong
 

Comments

Bob Sprague on Tuesday, 07 July 2020 10:40
I'm surprised. This letter has received, to date, more than 1,150 hits and numerous comments on Facebook, and yet no one has commented here. I think that Elaine Shea has to retract nothing of what she wrote.

I'm surprised. This letter has received, to date, more than 1,150 hits and numerous comments on Facebook, and yet no one has commented here. I think that Elaine Shea has to retract nothing of what she wrote.

I'm surprised. This letter has received, to date, more than 1,150 hits and numerous comments on Facebook, and yet no one has commented here. I think that Elaine Shea has to retract nothing of what she wrote.
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