Is anyone noticing a pattern here?
The man on the voicemail is flirty and clearly asking for a date. But it’s the name on the message that’s raising red flags.
“Hi, it’s your newly favorite congressman, Bob Filner. You know, the one who fell in love with you at your last speech,” he told Eldonna Fernandez.
He also asked her out to dinner in the message.
“I don’t want to wait ’til you come back to have dinner with you,” he said.
I would never again answer the phone.
That message was left a year ago, while Filner was serving his 10th term as a U.S. congressman. He had met Fernandez at a National Women’s Veterans Association of America “Healing and Hiring Fair.”
When Fernandez got the message, she immediately deleted it. But when sexual harassment allegations against the now-San Diego mayor began to surface a few weeks ago, she remembered the “creepy” message and was surprised to find it still sitting in her iPhone’s voicemail trash.
“Ugh. It creeps me out, it creeps me out,” Fernandez said. “The guy’s got problems.”
But the unwanted voicemail isn’t the real problem for Fernandez. It’s where and to whom he made inappropriate advances.
Fernandez, along with Army veteran Gerri Tindley, joins 11 other women who have publicly accused Filner, 70, of making unwanted advances, from groping to verbal passes.
They are also among at least eight female veterans and members of the National Women’s Veterans Association of America (NWVAA) in San Diego who have made accusations against the mayor. Almost all of the women were victims of sexual assault while they were in the military.
The women, like Fernandez, say the former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee used his significant power and credentials to access military sexual assault survivors, who they say are less likely to complain.
Fernandez is a retired master sergeant from the Air Force. She served 23 years in the United States and was deployed to the Middle East after 9/11.
It’s ironic that some in the Congress and Senate keep reminding us how deplorable sexual harassment is in the military, but are mute about their fellow Democrat.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) August 5, 2013
Keep that in mind when you read this:
Jones remembers Filner’s speeches, where he has often called for a zero tolerance of sexual abuse in the armed forces. She said she feels not only outrage but also a deep and familiar sense of being victimized by a man of power.
“He preyed upon people who were vulnerable, who he knew nine times out of 10 would not speak up, that didn’t have enough strength in them to speak up,” she said. “It’s not OK. You need to not be in office. You need to be out of office. You need to not have the ability to prey on others.”
That’s a sentiment that Fernandez shares.
“We’re all victims of military sexual assault. It appears to me that he was targeting the organization and hitting on the women of this organization because they were easy prey,” Fernandez said. “He’s part of an organization that’s against sexual assault and sexual violence against women and sexual harassment. And he’s doing the very thing that we are fighting to make stop in our service and in our country.”