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Originally published Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 5:12 PM

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Guest: Ad distorts Mike McGinn’s work on domestic-violence programs

An ad by an independent political-action committee about Mayor Mike McGinn’s record of funding domestic-violence programs distorts his record of support, according to guest columnists Patricia Hayden and Sutapa Basu.

Special to The Times

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DOMESTIC violence is a stain on our society. It is a crime against women that is often invisible. And it is a crime that becomes more common in desperate economic times.

That is why we applaud Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s record of preserving all funding for domestic-violence victims and survivors during the Great Recession, and increasing funding support during the past two years.

We were saddened and offended that an independent political-action committee supporting the mayor’s challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, is airing a television ad that intentionally misleads city voters and dangerously distorts our city’s values in fighting this crime.

McGinn, who is up for re-election on Nov. 5, increased funding for these services at a time when the state and federal government cut support for women.

The city spent more than $4 million in 2010 on domestic-violence programs; the mayor has raised it, with council approval, to $5 million in 2013. He has proposed further increasing funding by $450,000 in his 2014 budget, which is awaiting approval by the council.

As advocates and academics, our lifework is improving services for domestic-violence victims.

The ad tells the viewer that domestic violence is up 60 percent in Seattle as a result of the mayor’s efforts to find management efficiencies during the recession in order to preserve funding for direct services.

Linking the exit of one city employee, who is featured in the ad, to a rise in domestic violence is dangerous because it masks the real causes of domestic violence.

It also could make people feel that the city doesn’t care. It leaves the viewer thinking that the mayor has reduced services instead of increasing them, which he has. A Seattle Times Truth Needle news story reported the ad was “mostly false.”

As women and experts in domestic violence, anti-human trafficking and human services, we supported the mayor’s efforts and the Seattle City Council’s unanimous vote to approve the new staffing structure.

The ad’s claim that aggravated assaults tied to domestic violence increased 60 percent is not accurate. It ignores the hard work of advocates, prosecutors, police officers and elected officials to increase the penalties for this crime.

A recent change in state law made strangulation a felony, where before it was only a misdemeanor. This change helped lead to more robust prosecutions and encouraged victims of domestic violence to report these incidents to law-enforcement authorities. This is a good thing.

The PAC’s ad has a chilling effect on this positive trend of openness and increased prosecutorial authority.

Let’s respect survivors and victims of domestic violence. Stop playing with women’s lives and take this ad off the air.

Patricia Hayden is co-chairwoman of Seattle Human Services Coalition. Sutapa Basu is a founding member of the API Safety Center and works with immigrant domestic-violence programs in Seattle.

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