Statement on Congressman Tony Cardenas's Denial of Sexual Assault Allegations

The San Fernando Valley Young Democrats reaffirm our commitment to the constituents of the San Fernando Valley, particularly Congressional District 29, when we say that we are deeply saddened, angered, and disappointed to hear of the sexual abuse allegations against Representative Tony Cardenas.

This is the latest in a string of revelations about San Fernando Valley elected officials abusing their power and engaging in sexual assault and harassment - in this case, of a child. The past 6 months have been tumultuous and painful for the residents of the Valley, as we have learned that various individuals working to represent us - both elected and appointed - have engaged in behavior beneath the dignity of not only public office but indeed, humanity.

This behavior, it seems, is a depressingly endemic problem within the California political landscape. The Valley deserves better and SFVYD aims to be part of the healing process in that regard. We are currently working to devise a slate of programming aimed at empowering victims of sexual harassment and assault while educating allies to be more aware, engaged, and supportive.

We know that the Congressman has denied these allegations. We of course respect the process of discovery in which the attorneys must further engage. However, to be clear, as an independent club that confers political support as a privilege, we have no obligation to follow the stringent burden of proof standards that would apply in a courtroom. For our purposes, we instead favor an approach of believing the victim’s narrative, until proven otherwise, for the following reasons:

It is common knowledge that sexual harassment and assault are underreported crimes, not overreported. Victims of abuse often report feeling re-victimized by the criminal justice system in the process of reporting and seeking accountability for their perpetrators’ actions. While measuring rates of sexual violence is difficult (often due to the fear and stigma around reporting), there is no uncertainty in the national data that the majority of sexual assaults are never reported to police. Allegations of “false reporting” are equally ill-conceived and dangerous, perpetuating myths that blame victims, excuse assailants, and erroneously support the fallacy that women routinely lie about being sexually harassed and abused.

It is not surprising to us, then, that a young woman, fearing the influence of a prominent and powerful man, would fail to report this behavior at the time of the incident. It is also not hard to imagine that, as a successful youth golfer with a college career ahead of her, she did not wish to derail that success by engaging in a long, drawn-out court battle with a well-known and respected Los Angeles political figure.

It is also not difficult to believe her. Coming forward after 11 years must be an extremely scary and difficult process. Reporting this assault will likely draw unwelcomed scrutiny of her family re-traumatize her after years “internalized feelings of shame and self-blame” for which her grades and performance in golf tournaments suffered.

SFVYD believes Jane Doe, in the same way that we believed the victims who had the courage to come forward in reporting sexual assault and harassment by Assemblymembers Dababneh and Bocanegra. We will stand firm in our support of victims, as any candidate or officeholder found to be in violation of our club’s code of conduct and decency may be subject to a revoked endorsement upon further developments.

We hope that the victim, known now only as Jane Doe, feels supported, believed, and empowered as she comes forward. And we hope that our elected officials will respond to this, another shameful page in this lurid story of sexual harassment and abuse, with dignity, respect, and action.

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