Mistakes were made.
That is the conclusion reached by the investigation into CU Boulder and the Buffs’ organization’s handling of the Joe Tumpkin case. Three specific failures by the university are cited: failure to report the domestic violence allegations internally, failure to report the allegations to law enforcement, a failure of supervision of Tumpkin.
This week we’ve had a chance to reflect on the consequences and initiatives detailed in the statement issued by CU President Benson and the Regents. For the staff and Board of Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN), our reaction is mixed.
SPAN is the domestic violence non-profit serving Boulder. We have been providing crisis intervention services, violence prevention programming and long term support for survivors and their children since 1979. With SPAN’s help, each year more than 2,000 survivors and their children do the hard work of transitioning out of violence and chaos into safety and stability.
On the one hand our hearts are full for the woman in this case, the survivor. She is quoted by her attorney as feeling “betrayed and devastated” by the punishments outlined in President Benson’s statement. We know all too well how often survivors experience the feeling of helplessness and re-victimization as they are dismissed and disbelieved by the very systems that are supposed to protect them.
That there is a distinct sound of the “good old boy” ranks closing, with the painfully proverbial justifications of “no bad intent” and “I know these guys”, is at the very least concerning. Will there really be change at CU? Are President Benson, Coach MacIntyre, Mr. George, and all the key players in these “failures” genuinely committed to fostering change — in their own hearts and minds, and in the CU community? Or is this all just so much PR to get us through the summer until the fall football season will help everybody move on?
And that brings us to the other hand, a hand extended in welcome and hope. President Benson’s statement referenced financial support for, training from, and partnership with a “community organization focused on the issue of domestic violence”. At SPAN we say: here we are.
We have been doing this work for nearly 40 years and we know we cannot do it alone. Having help and support from CU, President Benson, CU Regents, Chancellor DiSteffano, Coach MacIntyre, Mr. George, is a tremendous opportunity to initiate authentic conversations in our community around the issue of intimate partner violence. These are powerful voices and we invite them to join us as we work to end relationship violence and hold abusers accountable.
We have to make this change happen. Ask the families of Ashley Mead or Stacy Farrar and her little boy Ian if change is not in fact, long overdue. Because when mistakes are made, when systems fail, sometimes people die.
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence