City Councilor Hagerman makes a gravely misguided and insensitive statement on the Marino domestic abuse story.
Let’s imagine that it was 5th Ward Councilor Jason Hagerman, and not Ward 1 Councilor Angelina Marino, on the audio recording of a domestic violence incident that was released in the Geneva Believer story last week.
Imagine that it was Councilor Hagerman, on the recording, who:
- verbally abused his wife
- spit on his wife
- kicked a hole in a door and admitted to it
- angrily challenged his wife to call the police after threatening to lie and tell the police that his wife had destroyed the door
- told his wife that he had a personal relationship with at least one Geneva Police officer, and told her to “see what happens to you” if she called the police
- literally committed, and confessed to, multiple criminal acts, on an audio recording
Now, imagine that another city councilor made a public statement about Councilor Hagerman’s indisputably abusive and criminal behavior, and that councilor’s public statement began with these words:
“First, I want to express my empathy to Councilor Hagerman. It has to be highly embarrassing to have your personal life exposed in the detail that it has been.”
Imagine that the councilor’s public statement went on to say:
“I believe it’s still a one-sided story, and it’s easy to rush to conclusions in judgment” and “I don’t want anyone reaching premature conclusion on what transpired.”
If the aggressor was male and the victim female, public outcry to such a staggeringly insensitive, thoughtless and inappropriate response by a city official would be swift and harsh. Any elected representative who would respond to such a horrifying recording by immediately expressing ’empathy’ for the male abuser would be rightfully seen as a monster who was trying to minimize a domestic violence incident while implying that the actions of the victim had somehow justified the attack.
But this is exactly how Hagerman chose to respond to the Marino situation…by expressing empathy for her and insisting that everyone refrain from rushing to judgement.
Hagerman’s statement reflected a deeply rooted cultural bigotry toward LGBTQ domestic violence.
If the aggressor had been a man, City Council would be rightfully demanding the councilor step down from his role as an elected official, and the public would be filling up City Council’s voicemails and email inboxes demanding the same.
If there is to be any justice for the victim in this case, we must first admit that there are dangerous and wrongheaded assumptions being made because the violence is being committed by a woman, against a woman, in a same-sex relationship.
An article from the online magazine Everyday Feminism entitled “4 Myths About Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian Relationships” illuminates at least two issues that are in play in the Marino situation:
Myth #1: Women have equal power in a relationship, so the violence must be mutual.
For whatever reason, when it comes to intimate partner violence, people get stuck on muscles and brute strength.
Many people believe that because women are supposed to be caring and nurturing, they don’t behave violently in relationships, and that since they may be of relatively equal size and strength, there should be no way that one woman can truly dominate and abuse another woman.
People somehow believe that the physical similarities make the dynamics equal and therefore, completely ignore the numerous other factors that can create power imbalances.
Saying that inequalities don’t exist means that you could be ignoring factors such as racism, internalized homophobia, ableism, unequal wealth, age, and many other factors that can create a power differential in a relationship.
The truth is that physical violence and threats do occur in lesbian relationships, despite the fact that many like to believe that women are incapable of it.
And make no mistake: This is not “cat fighting.”
Myth #4: The abuser is always ‘the butch.’
First, a butch is not always present in lesbian relationships.
And second, there is no inherent link between masculine women and violent behavior. If there were, then we would expect every masculine being to be violent.
It’s true that some butch women use their masculine nature to abuse other women, but certainly not all. Everyday Feminism has an excellent article about this.
This myth can put butch women at a grave disadvantage when they are attempting to leave an abusive relationship. Abusers are not naïve to stereotypes, and a feminine-presenting lesbian can use them to control their partner. They can do this by threatening to tell law enforcement or others that they are actually the victim, knowing that they will likely be believed because their partner looks more masculine.
Remember, someone has to have the will to commit these behaviors, and that may not be who you expect.
Hagerman’s Full Statement
Below is a full transcript of Hagerman’s statement, which was made during the Mayor and Council reports segment of the April 5th Geneva City Council meeting:
There was a report that was broadcast through the Geneva Believer blog over the weekend. First, I want to express my empathy to Councilor Marino. It has to be highly embarassing to have your personal life exposed in the detail that it has been. It’s my hope that this situation does not end up defining you as I know that you take your responsibity of Ward 1 representation seriously. I know that you put out a response, I haven’t read it, but I do hope that you continue to reach out to those in your ward with a heartfelt apology.
Regarding the story that was publicized, despite all the details given, I believe it’s still a one-sided story, and it’s easy to rush to conclusions in judgment. Regardless, there are several aspects that I find troubling. It is not my intent to delve into highly personal detail, however I do insist that we, Geneva City Council, firmly request an investigation into the matter. What can be ascertained is police responded to a single address on three occasions without any formal resolution, and as I understand there’s a standing complaint against the GPD as well.
I realize that Councilor Marino is a known entity, and therefore may have been given a break from standard protocol. As public servants, we cannot expect to be treated in greater favor than those we stand here to represent.
Equally so, I wonder, of course based on the one-sided story so far, about the fairness of service to her spouse at the time. It appears possibly her civil rights were compromised, and we cannot allow that to be a precedent. I also don’t believe that the GPD intended any adverse consequences, but there are unintended consequences.
Just to reiterate, I don’t want anyone reaching premature conclusion on what transpired, but based on the storyline, we need to determine if the law was applied fairly and learn whether we can improve our delivery of service more fairly to all.
It’s astonishing to hear that, four days after the story was made public, Hagerman had not yet taken the time to read Marino’s statement on Facebook. Every elected representative in the City should have read her statement as soon as they were made aware of it.
Hagerman awkwardly encourages Marino to “continue” to reach out to her constituents with a “heartfelt apology.” But if Hagerman had read Marino’s statement, he would know that she has never apologized. In fact, her response was decidedly defiant and unapologetic, calling her ex-wife “opportunistic” and not a “real victim” of domestic violence.
It was heartening to hear someone on City Council addressing the issue publicly. Hagerman’s acknowledgement that Dawn Sutton’s civil rights may have been compromised, and his call for an investigation, were encouraging.
Yet his statement’s inherent bigotry and his reluctance to condemn Marino’s documented spousal abuse were profoundly disappointing.
Who Will Investigate?
Although Hagerman needs to be called out on his LGBTQ bigotry, he should also be commended for being the first and only City Councilor to respond publicly to the Marino situation (besides Marino herself). Hagerman has called for an investigation into the matter to find out if Marino was afforded any unfair advantage in the three domestic violence incidents due to her role as an elected official.
It’s unknown who will be doing the investigation. It should not be the city’s Ethics Committee.
Currently, the Ethics Committee consists of only one member. Two prior members, including Tom Marsh, recently ended their involvement with the board.
CORRECTION: Mr. Cappiello has informed me that both of the previous members, including Tom Marsh, have agreed to continue in their roles on the board until replacements have been found.
Current member Sam Cappiello is a friend of Councilor Marino, and when the domestic violence story was first posted on the Geneva Believer Facebook page, Cappiello responded by critcizing the ‘tabloid’ nature of the story and stated that it should not have been made public. Cappiello eventually deleted his comments, but not until hundreds of readers had seen them.
CORRECTION: Mr. Cappiello has stated that he did NOT delete his comments. I was unable to see those comments until I opened the post in a separate browser window. I apologize for accusing Mr. Cappiello of deleting his comments.
Cappiello also “liked” Marino’s defiant, unapologetic and insensitive statement responding to the Geneva Believer article, showing that his relationship with Marino is too close for him to be trusted with investigating potential wrongdoing related to the domestic incidents.
Tom Marsh responded on the Geneva Believer blog post about Marino, criticizing the decision to publicize “serious allegations” without interviewing “third party witnesses.”
Of course, Angelina Marino served on the Board of Ethical Review with both Cappiello and Marsh, (CORRECTION: Mr. Cappiello has informed me that he was Marino’s replacement on the Ethics Board, and never served alongside her) so it’s unsurprising that her former colleagues and friends would come to her defense. Still, the idea that the current one-person Board would be able to review the case in an unbiased manner is patently ridiculous.
Take A Stand Against Domestic Violence NOW
It’s been one week since the Marino story was posted here on Geneva Believer, which was then picked up by Fingerlakes1.com. The Marino story was the most-viewed post in Geneva Believer history by a longshot, and the story was shared dozens of times across social media.
Readers have been shocked and outraged, and great numbers of people have sent online words of support to Dawn Sutton.
Now, it’s time for Geneva residents to DO something about it.
- Contact City Council and let them know that they need impose a zero tolerance policy for domestic abuse. Remind them that there is a recording of Councilor Marino committing and admitting to actual crimes. Let them know that Councilor Marino’s only public statement minimized her own disgusting behavior and instead blamed the victim of her violence. Tell City Council that Councilor Marino must be pressured to step down from City Council immediately.
- If you are a registered Democrat, contact the city Democratic Committee and tell them that you do not believe that Angelina Marino should be representing your party in Ward 1, and that they should make a public statement demanding her resignation immediately.
- Contact local and regional media and insist that they cover this story. Many readers have already been doing so, but there needs to be many more of us reaching out and letting the media know about this story. City officials can ignore a pesky blog and an online news organization…they’ll have a harder time avoiding the issue if larger area news organizations start calling and asking questions.