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In wake of domestic abuse allegations against an alder, Council passes resolution “affirming unwavering support” of survivors; calls for censure and resignation continue

Domestic abuse survivors and advocates made up most of the public attendees at last night's Common Council meeting. Here they listen as RCC: Sexual Violence Resource Center director Dana Pellebon speaks. Photo by Robert Chappell.

Dozens of domestic abuse survivors and advocates attended last night’s meeting of the Madison Common Council in support of a resolution expressing the council’s “unwavering support” of survivors.

The resolution, authored by Alder Sabrina Madison, comes amid calls for Alder Charles Myadze to resign following accusations that he physically and emotionally abused a former wife and former girlfriend. 

Myadze has denied all of the allegations. He attended the meeting remotely via Zoom.

The resolution as introduced had 16 cosponsors, including Myadze.

Alder Jael Currie, who was Common Council President at the time, called on Myadze to resign late last week, and Madison told WKOW-TV that her “personal opinion is that he should resign.”

Michelle McKoy, who posted a video to Facebook accusing Myadze of abusing her, called on the Council to begin the process of removing Myadze from office and later presented a petition with about 300 signatures urging such action. The Latino Coalition for Action also called on the Council to remove Myadze in a statement Tuesday.

Currie and Council Vice President Yanette Figueroa-Cole said in a statement that state law prohibits the council from removing Myadze because the allegations describe incidents that took place before Myadze was in office.

“Domestic violence doesn’t just happen in isolation. It is happening every single day, it is happening every minute of the day,” Madison said in introducing the resolution. “We even have a recent case of (alleged) domestic violence here in the city that we’re all grappling with … this was an opportunity to say that this council does not ignore any survivor.”

Virginia Gittens-Escuerdo, executive director of UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence, read the resolution in Spanish and said, “Our journey towards ensuring safety and justice for all cannot end here. Domestic violence remains a pervasive issue, one that demands unwavering attention and action.”

Virginia Gittens Escuardo. Photo by Robert Chappell.

RCC: Sexual Violence Resource Center executive director Dana Pellebon said that only about 30 percent of domestic or sexual violence incidents are reported, and only two to eight percent of those reports are deemed false or not credible.

“That means when we say, ‘believe survivors,’ we say that because they are telling the truth,” she said. “That’s uncomfortable because it means we all know a harm doer … It is important for us to be who we say we are. Empty words without action gives us nothing but a false sense of security.”

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services executive director Shannon Barry also spoke in favor of the resolution.

“Together this evening, we’re confronting a hard truth. It often takes a chorus of voices for the plight of survivors to be heard and believed,” she said. “It should not be so. Every voice, whether it stands alone or within a sea of others, deserves to be heard with dignity and respect. Every story matters. Every survivor deserves our unwavering support and belief.”

Longtime Madison nonprofit and arts leader Shadyra Kilfoy-Flores recounted her own story as a domestic abuse survivor and added, “There is no reconciliation without truth and accountability.”

Shadyra Kilfoy-Flores. Photo by Robert Chappell.

Despite being cautioned to speak only to the resolution and not on any specific case or individual, some directly addressed the allegations against Myadze.

“We must hold ourselves and those who hold positions of power to high standards,” said Veronica Figueroa Velez, former executive director of UNIDOS and a resident of Myadze’s district. “Mr. Myadze, your lack of presence here today speaks volumes to one of your constituents. You have failed us. Your lack of accountability and misleading messages continue to cause harm to those you have impacted. I urge you to reconsider a public apology to victims and survivors. To the city, I urge you to take this unfortunate moment in time to set precedent and implement policies that address any violence allegations (about) members of the City (Council) in which termination of powers is the result after proper due process.”

Alder Juliana Bennett recounted her own experience as a survivor and the importance that accountability played for her.

“Just as (Kilfoy-Flores) said, there is no reconciliation without truth and accountability. I don’t think that there can be reconciliation without that truth and accountability, until folks own up to what they need to,” she said. “I can say that, honestly, one of the most healing moments I ever had was when my perpetrator looked me in the eye and told me, ‘I did this to you, and for that, I’m sorry.’ I think that an apology means a lot. And a public apology, especially if this is a public matter, means a whole lot more.”

Bennett initially signed on as a cosponsor of the resolution, but asked to have her name removed.

“Seeing the other sponsors, I cannot in good faith want to be a part of that list,” she said. 

Alder Amani Latimer Burris said she wanted to see a censure resolution come before the Council.

“I am a little disappointed that we don’t have a clear process for due process,” she said. “I’m glad that the resolution was put forward. And I hope that we have due process, because (lack of) due process … allows the person to not be held accountable. I just want to say that’s very important, and maybe that will be the action beyond the resolution, which I support.”

The resolution ultimately passed unanimously.

In other business, Figueroa-Cole was elected president of the Common Council and Alder John Duncan was elected vice president.