April 24, 2007
Statement on the inexcusable death of Rebecca Griego
Why a young woman worker's plea for help was ignored
by an institution that could have saved her
by Mary Ann Curtis, UW staff member and longtime activist with Campus Radical Women and Bernadette Logue, UW
The murder of Rebecca Jane Griego, a 26-year-old staff member at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, might have been prevented if the campus police department (UWPD) had followed university policy. UWPD's negligence also endangered the lives of Rebecca's co-workers and supervisor who took what measures they knew to try to protect her. UW management's failure to hold UWPD accountable creates a climate for continued ill treatment of young women on campus and underscores the second class status of women in society at large.
Violence against women largely ignored
Rebecca may well have been alive today if UWPD had followed campus procedures after she gave the department copies of her protection order against ex-boyfriend Jonathan Rowan and notified them twice in March that he had left death threats on her work phone. Rowan killed Rebecca on April 2 after stalking her for months.
UWPD didn't report Griego's pleas for help to the Workplace Violence Prevention Assessment Team at the Department of Human Resources. That team could have moved her office and provided her with security, as it has for other victims of stalking on campus. UWPD chief Vicky Stormo has yet to explain why her department didn't follow policy. However, UW Assistant Police Chief Ray Wittmier's comments to the Seattle Times the day after the shooting reveal that Griego's situation wasn't taken seriously.
He said, “It was a tragic event, an isolated domestic situation not involving anyone [else] on campus.” He further stated that he didn't expect UW campus security procedures to change after Rebecca's murder. “It's a public building. You can't protect everybody from everything.”
Unbelievable in light of a well-publicized fact that a majority of women seeking refuge from violent ex-partners are attacked on the job because that's where they can be found!
Two weeks later, on April 16, university police at Virginia Tech didn't secure campus after the first two murders in the morning because they too thought it was an isolated domestic situation not involving anyone else on campus. The massacre of 30 students and faculty that followed proves that misogynist stalkers must be stopped in their tracks.
Hold the UW Police Department and Administration accountable
UW President Mark Emmert needs to hold the UWPD accountable for its negligence. The president's broadcast emails following the murder provided students and workers with resources for domestic violence and trauma counseling, but did not mention the university's responsibility for what happened or plans to avoid such tragedies in the future. Today, students, staff and faculty are still uninformed of UW's security measures for victims of stalking and domestic violence.
The UW administration and police need to hear from the community about the importance of these issues. We are asking staff, students, faculty and the public to contact:
• UWPD Chief Vicky Stormo at email@example.com or call her at 206-543-0521 to demand a well-publicized public evening hearing before June 1 where she explains her department's actions and campus and community members can express their views
• President Mark Emmert at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 206-543-5010 to demand the UW administration take immediate measures to ensure funding and emergency training for all administrators and supervisors in all departments on how to recognize and take action in cases where workers and students are being stalked and institute campus-wide training for students and workers on the roots of violence against women and what can be done to stop it.
Request a timeline for emergency training and provide instructions on where victims of stalking can go for help and what kind of assistance they can expect.
Let's work together to cure the epidemic of violence
Ms. Griego died on the job because she was not considered valuable enough to protect. In contrast, had her murderer threatened an assault on private property, for example robbing the Husky Ticket Office, the police would have made an effort to stop him.
Ultimately to achieve that, we need to end the private profit system which thrives on brutality, and replace it with a democratic socialist society where workers run things and violence against women, children and men is unthinkable, unacceptable and unheard of.
We are holding an open meeting to discuss these issues and solutions. Please come to a speakout on: “Ending violence on campus and in the workplace: from UW to Virginia Tech.” It will be held on Monday, May 7, 7pm at the Ethnic Cultural Center, 3931 Brooklyn Ave. N.E. All individuals and organizations are welcome to speak and bring their literature.