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The Vista Detention facility. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

One of the many horrifying subplots within Morgan Cook’s recent investigation of sexual assault within the county foster care system was the stunning revelation that the county argued in court that two young brothers who were sexually abused in foster care “acted unreasonably, carelessly, and/or negligently in and about the matters alleged in the complaint in that they did not exercise ordinary care, caution, or prudence for their own safety and protection.”

In other words, they didn’t do enough to stop their own assault from happening.

These are arguments being made by government prosecutors, with taxpayer money.

If it sounds familiar, it should.

The city attorney’s office similarly tried to suggest that a victim of police sexual assault was responsible for the attack once she sued the city over it. The city attorney pulled the argument once it was revealed in the media.

As she campaigned for city attorney, Mara Elliott seemed to suggest in a debate that it was reasonable to make such arguments. She later clarified that she believes victim-blaming is never appropriate.

Attorneys acting on behalf of a public entity have a duty to be stewards of taxpayer money. But there’s a line between protecting taxpayer money and re-injuring a victim in the public’s name.

I bring this up not just so the public can weigh in on whether it thinks government resources should be used blaming children for their own sexual assault, but because I’m worried we’re in for another round of this.

A San Diego County sheriff’s deputy stands accused of sexual misconduct against 19 women.

When the deputy, Richard Fischer, held a press conference recently, and media all over town rushed to cover it, something troubled me.

His attorney, according to NBC 7, “said his team is conducting its own investigation and are unearthing credibility problems with the women who have filed complaints regarding his client.”

Once “credibility problems” was floated publicly, and repeated without challenge in the media, I began to brace myself for more suggestions as this case unfolds that these women had it coming.

We’ve seen this over and over.

The Oakland Police Department is still recovering from a massive scandal involving a teenage sex worker who was victimized by police officers. She was someone who had “credibility problems” but was nonetheless a victim of terrible crimes.

After a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was convicted of raping a woman, the woman sued the county. The county, in turn, “spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking Lindsay as if she had falsely accused Sanchez,” Buzzfeed reported. Experts told Buzzfeed that such a process is commonplace in these circumstances.

Fischer is entitled, of course, to a vigorous defense.

But I hope everyone remembers that vulnerable people with checkered pasts can themselves be victims of a crime – sometimes that’s even precisely why they were targeted.

What VOSD Learned This Week

If you’re reading a VOSD newsletter then, sorry, I assume you are by default a policy nerd.

But guess what, nerd? This past week was made for you. The news was filled with sweet, wonky goodness: pensions, bond debt and a troubling SANDAG audit.

First (and last, and always, until time stops): pensions. The state Supreme Court rocked the San Diego political establishment’s world this week by opening a door to overturning Prop. B – a scenario that would be unimaginably complex, but one the city must now try to imagine.

One woman saw this coming all along.

They would have revoked our wonk cards if we didn’t delve into the ruling on the podcast, so you best believe we did.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, by the way, has always been a big proponent of Prop. B. He also came in this week for a special podcast interview. In a fluke of bad timing – for us, anyway – that interview happened the day before the pension ruling, so he talked mostly about vacation rental enforcement and the future of the GOP.

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The airport caused quite a stir this week when it announced it was joining a lawsuit against the Port of San Diego, reigniting a feud with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who is now vowing to once again try and bring the airport back under the Port’s control.

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Probably the biggest takeaway of Andrew Keatts’ SANDAG investigation was the fact that officials knowingly misled voters. But another truth revealed by Keatts’ reporting is that the agency’s Transnet program very likely won’t be able to afford all the projects it promised voters – and now a new audit says SANDAG needs to start thinking about what should be on the chopping block.

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Ashly McGlone continues to shine a much-needed light on San Diego Unified’s finances. This week, she detailed why the district’s new bond proposal could really cost $7.5 billion, and she tracked down the costs behind the district’s $41 million budget shortfall.

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San Diego officials knew about problems with smart water meters back in 2016, newly released emails reveal – a fact that conflicts with earlier statements the city made about an April 2016 meeting between water department officials and the company that makes the smart meters.

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Need to get caught up on the court case challenging family separations at the border? We’ve got you covered.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“This was a McSting.” – And with that line, I was hooked on this rollicking read detailing how one man hijacked the McDonald’s Monopoly game and stole millions for himself, his friends and total strangers.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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