There was barely a seat available at last night’s meeting called by the OB Woman’s Club to discuss the recent sexual assaults in Ocean Beach. Nearly 50 people – over a quarter of them men – crowded into the building at the corner of Muir and Bacon – just yards from a violent sexual assault that took place during the wee hours of August 25th.
Becky Sorensen, vice-president of the club, opened the meeting and welcomed everyone. The meeting had been set up out of frustrations, apparently, at the weak response women had received when they brought up their concerns about the assaults and peeping tom at the OB Town Council meeting recently. A number of individuals approached the leadership of the Woman’s Club that night out in front of the Masonic Hall after the Town Council and asked if a meeting could be held there. Becky and Celeste McClure jumped into the task and printed up a flier and began distributing them around town.
Becky expressed worries that in OB women walk home at all hours by themselves – and that they needed someone to escort them home. She also spoke of potentially setting up a Neighborhood Watch or some such group, the need to educate women in the community, and pointed to a list of sexual crimes in northwest OB over the last six months. She then opened up the discussion to the floor.
Over the course of the next hour, many people spoke, and many good ideas on what to do were expressed. One of the first major plans was outlined by Tim of Tower Two – and he wanted to set up an “OB Citizens Patrol”, and he was signing up volunteers immediately. Tim’s vision – and he said he’s set up several in the past – was to have 30 people, broken up into teams on 3 to 4 hour shifts, to “walk around” and “watch” the streets. This would be preferably during the “worst” hours, 11pm to 2:30 or 3am, after the bars let out.
Tim explained that he saw the patrols walking the streets, particularly in the “War Zone” of OB – the northwest sector of the village that has had a notorious reputation of being a rough neighborhood. But, he quickly followed, the patrosl are not looking for trouble and won’t have any “bad ass attitude” – and anyone who did would be rejected.
It was noted that many women workers at the bars and restaurants walk home after closing time – alone. Also noted was the hesitation by many to simply rely on or call the police for assistance, that often they don’t respond, and they also have a perspective of ‘let us do our job’ toward citizen efforts like patrols, or neighborhood watches not set up through their system.
Other ideas and potential solutions were expressed, as well as other concerns. One woman said there’s lots of rumors out there, and “we’ve got to separate fact from fiction” – and Becky responded, “That’s why we have the list.”
Going door-to-door and going to the bars themselves was suggested by several, in order to get the word out about the dangers for women. Having ‘Safe House’ stickers with a green peace sign – like the old Green OB – was brought up, reporting suspicious behavior was another; one man offered a free women’s self-defense seminar; other ideas included offering free rides home late at night; organizing a march on the issue had many murmurs in agreement; get the word out into the mainstream media; individuals taking their own block to communicate concerns ….
Several raised questions why the issue about the sexual assaults hadn’t been picked up by the media. John, the brother of the woman assaulted on August 25, said that the media ignored his sister’s assault but ran stories when he put up ‘wanted posters’ to the disdain of police. The Club did set up an OB crime watch facebook page, called OB Crime Watch here, which can be used for communication. The OB Rag was also offered as a tool for the group to get the word out.
There was only a little talk about “urban travelers” but it was also stated that there was no evidence that the homeless were involved in the assaults, and that homeless are victims themselves of assaults.
Finally, those present agreed to form a coordination committee to ensure that the ideas and energy were not lost. Tim offered his Tower Two restaurant as a meeting place. The committee – open to all there – will meet Monday night, October 8th at 7 pm.
Before the group broke up, Becky spoke of her and others’ frustrations at the OB Town Council meeting held on September 26th where many women in attendance were talking about their concerns over the sexual attacks. Yet, Becky felt “our concerns were denied, our concerns invalidated, and they had a condescending attitude towards us.”
As people began filing out of the room, several noted that no members of the Town Council had attended the meeting. Looking around, it was also clear that no one in the leadership of OB’s official organizations had bothered to come out to the meeting. No one from the OBTC was there, no one from the OB Planning Board, no one from the OB Mainstreet Association or other group – except the OB Woman’s Club.
At the end, the president of the Club and long-time resident, Donna Bergerson, stood up and thanked everyone for coming and offered the Club’s building for another large meeting. She was answered with applause, and she signaled the leadership of Becky – and there was more applause. By then, a TV station had shown up and began interviewing a number of folks.
Yet, this is only the beginning, the beginning of a community-wide effort to educate the women of Ocean Beach, to do it “the OB way” – of taking problems head-on by the citizens ourselves, without waiting for the City.
A coordinating body will be established, along with a Citizens Patrol – in an effort to ensure OB’s late night streets are safe, to deter sexual predators and peeping toms. This will also bring pressure to bear on the politicians and the police – to step up their efforts to bring peace and harmony back to the village of OB.