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Reporter’s Notebook: Reverse correlations

Monday, January 13, 2020 by Austin Monitor

Reports of sexual assault down in 2019 for Austin and the country… Juliana Gonzales, the senior director of sexual assault services at the SAFE Alliance, came to give her monthly update to the Public Safety Commission on Jan. 6. She told the commission that overall reports of sexual violence were down for 2019. “We’re not unusual in that we saw fewer patients this year at our sexual assault clinic than we did last year,” she said. According to Gonzales, the trend of fewer reports of sexual assault and violence is nationwide. At the same, the instances of violence are not declining. “It’s our sense that sexual violence may be increasing,” she told the commission. Part of the reason for this disconnect may be attributable to survivors of violence not considering themselves “easily credible” due to a past history of incarceration, substance abuse or a previous history of reporting sexual abuse. In the case of SAFE Alliance, Gonzales said that law enforcement continues to be a valuable partner in bringing victims who want to report crimes to the clinic, but those cases are only one piece of the puzzle. Some victims are not inclined to report acts of violence due to concerns about their emotional, physical or economic safety, explained Gonzales. However, those cases can still benefit from the services at SAFE Alliance, which offers medical assistance and preventive treatments in addition to documentation for police reports. For those who need care but do not want to engage with the criminal justice system, “It’s especially important that we get the word out,” she said.

What’s this about Alabama?… In June, City Council explored taking a political stance against the state of Alabama due to its restrictive abortion laws, ultimately asking for a look at the potential impacts a city employee business travel ban would have. Last week, Austin Public Health, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the fire, police and emergency services departments responded with a memo explaining that several key trainings are available only in Alabama. The memo, which can be read here, promises that the Law Department will provide a separate response on the ability to proceed with a boycott.

On popular music… Last week’s Music Commission meeting featured plenty of frothy debate between commissioners and local musicians on the matter of how the city should best deploy $3.5 million in Hotel Occupancy Tax money newly dedicated to the commercial music industry. With some of the musicians lamenting that their bands were recently paid $100 total – not per member – for a night’s performance in local music venues, commissioner and local avant garde composer Graham Reynolds said there should be equitable attention paid to the interests of music fans who decide with their wallets what kind of music they want to hear in clubs. “This is a much more expensive city to run a venue in now than it was when any of us started, so the economics of running a venue are massively different,” he said, noting the starkly different monetary prospects between an artistically uncompromising act versus a cover band. “Until a certain point there’s a reverse correlation between the amount of artistic freedom and the amount of money involved, so we have to be careful about what we’re demanding up front when we’re trying to do something out of the box, experimental, or that we’re not sure people want to hear.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jessi Devenyns, Elizabeth Pagano and Chad Swiatecki.

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