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Consent for anything, including sexual behavior, looks like an affirmative, enthusiastic, “yes”—not the absence of a “no.” While some institutions are doing their part to catch communities up to speed, it seems even people in positions of power have missed the message.
On Monday, Tim Tubbs, the mayor of Killen, an Alabama town 10 miles from the Tennessee border, suspended Killen Police Chief Bryan Hammond for 15 days without pay for writing “silence is consent” in a Facebook comment, WHNT 19 reported. In other comments, Hammond also falsely accused Doug Jones, the Democrat Alabama Senate opponent of Republican Roy Moore, of molesting him as a child.
According to AL.com, Hammond wrote the comments last week on a friend’s Facebook post, and later told the publication that he was “making a joke” and that none of the accusations he posted were true, calling his comment about consent “sarcasm.”
Hammond’s comments were in response to an article posted about Beverly Young Nelson, one of the eight women who have accused Moore of pursuing them romantically or sexually when they were teenagers. Nelson said Moore tried to sexually assault her in 1977 when she was 16 and Moore was in his 30s. During a press conference about the accusation, Nelson had shown the press a signature of Moore’s in her high school yearbook.
The post sharing the article included the phrases “fake news” and “vote Roy Moore!” After Hammond wrote “silence is consent” in the comments, he then shared a photo of a Hillary Clinton supporter crying and wrote, “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that all those from Gadsden [the Alabama city in which the accusations against Moore are based] look something like this.”
Hammond then proceeded to accuse Jones of molesting him as a child, writing, “On another note, Doug Jones fondled me on a boy scout camping trip in 1978. I wasn’t gonna say anything, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of him being a senator. I was ok with it until now. By the way, you can’t see me right now but I’m crying as I type this.”
“Did he sign your yearbook?” someone else commented.
“As a matter of fact…” Hammond replied, including a photo of a written inscription: “Bryan, Thanks for the great time camping. Doug Jones.”
Josh Bogus, a former student in Killen, then flagged Hammond’s comments to AL.com.
Hammond has been in law enforcement for more than two decades, and began his time in Killeen, a town of about 1,000 residents, in 1998.
According to a statement provided to WHNT 19, Hammond said he was joking back and forth with a friend, and wrote “silence is consent” referencing “people ignoring accusations from the opposing side.” He also said that the accusations were in “no way true,” and he had never met Jones before, and apologized for “any comments I made that may have been offensive to anyone who read them.”
He also emphasized that his comments were made “on [a] private Facebook page” and that he’s “learned from this experience to refrain from any discussion that could be offensive to anyone who might read it, even if the comment were not intended as a public post.” In other words, he’s justifying his comments because they were supposed to be a private conversation with a friend—not for all of Killen to see.
Of course, no one here is asking the police chief to “refrain from any discussion that could be offensive,” but to instead, as a leader in law enforcement, know that the people in his town are directly affected by his understanding of sexual assault. The people of Killen are less likely to report an assault if they think they won’t be believed, such as how Hammond doesn’t appear to believe the women who have come forward against Moore, or if they feel they’ll be questioned or belittled with the sentiment that “silence is consent.”
AL.com reported Hammond said he didn’t want to comment when he was asked about the community’s concerns regarding his views on sexual assault. Hammond returns to his post on Dec. 6.
H/T Raw Story
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.