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October, 2003

Harassment, West Marin Style!
By Jeanette Pontacq

[har.ass verb. 1) to trouble, worry, or torment, as with cares, debts, repeated questions, etc. 2) to trouble by repeated raids or attacks, etc; harry: - har-ass'er. - har-ass'ment noun.]

   Have you ever been bullied, harassed or experienced serious intimidation? If not, a number of families around Tomales Bay can explain it to you first hand. They will tell you about the fear for their kids, the depression and the victimization that results. The most insidious result is a feeling of isolation from the rest of the community, which usually has no idea what is happening to that family.
   On September 10, the Sheriff's Department held an open meeting at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station to hear from the families who have been repeatedly harassed by at least four local teenage boys over the last several months. This meeting seems to have been the first time that the victims had been able to come together to 1) find that they are not alone and 2) put all the pieces of the assaults together into an action plan to finally halt the harassment.
   The Sheriff cannot put a case together without evidence. Duh. So all victims of any vandalism, harassment, intimidation or whatever need to call 663 1151 and ask for Rich Ginnodo. It also highlights the need to talk to neighbors...it is highly unusual for such assaults to be a one-time event. The Sheriff's Department needs to have evidence of assaults on multiple neighbors to put together the evidence puzzle that will finally end these assaults and/or allow charges. Please help.
   The stories the victims told of what they had experienced at the hands of these four boys (the verified names of whom are already known to victims and police) were astounding. While victims all experienced serious assaults on their property and psyches, one family stood out as having taken the most damage by far. Over a period of thirteen months, this family had undergone repeated thefts (from more than just these boys), a firebombing, property damage, public gang taunts, and having their daughters regularly woken up in the middle of the night by the perpetrators banging their fists on windows and doors while yelling obscenities. The boys even simulated gun shots to put more fear into their victims. Every action of the perpetrators seemed premeditated and designed to terrorize the family. The perpetrators were so brazen that they had no problem in taunting the victims in public.
   This is typical behaviour of bullies and intimidators. It is NOT a case of "boys will be boys." The four perpetrators were way out of control, with no limits at all. Where, you might ask, were the perpetrators' families while all this harassment was going on? Most of them were in total denial of what their kids were doing. The denial was so strong that the mom of one perpetrator actually increased the assault on the victims by yelling obscenities at them when they tried to ask her to rein in her kid. Alcohol and substance abuse seem to be big factors in the bad behaviour overall, and one needs to ask how the kids were getting high and why their parents seemed so oblivious to it all.
   Where were the authorities during all these goings on? The local Sheriff's Department is stretched pretty thin for all of West Marin. That said, we need to ask law enforcement why it took so long to understand the seriousness of the problem and see the pattern of dangerous abuse among multiple families. Individual deputies too often failed to take the available evidence (fingerprints, etc) to compare against other incidents. Some victims were told that their eye-witness identification of the perpetrators was simply not enough for the law to act on. The Sheriff's Department is beginning by having serious talks with the parents of the perpetrators, and it is hoped such initial action will put a stop to the patterns of assault on residents and their property.
   The victims at the Dance Palace meeting came to a consensus that the Sheriff's Department needs to put together all the available evidence and initiate charges where applicable. Anything less and they (and we) are simply not serious about protecting the community and setting limits on teens' behaviour.
   As one victim explained, this may be just the tip of the iceberg in West Marin. Although it is no excuse in this case, teens have very little community-led outlets here for their energy and testosterone. For our own well-being, as well as the kids, we need to seriously look at that issue as soon as possible on a community level. We need to pragmatically get involved and help! It takes a village to raise a kid!
   KWMR (90.5 Point Reyes/89.3 Bolinas) will offer a special program on this issue on Wednesday, October 15 at 5:30pm on their Epicenter: West Marin Issues hour. Guests will include Lieutenant Rich Ginnodo of the Sheriff's Department, victims of the latest harassment, and a psychotherapist . The discussion will encompass not just this particular victimization, but the problems teens face per se in West Marin and what we can do. PLEASE TUNE IN AND SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY RADIO STATION, KWMR. [email protected]

 

 

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