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Survivors, accusers: Mayor Murray's resignation welcome but not enough

Jeff Simpson at his home outside Portland, Oregon.
Thomas Teal for The Stranger, licensed for KUOW
Jeff Simpson at his home outside Portland, Oregon.

Survivors and accusers of sexual abuse welcomed Mayor Ed Murray’s resignation — but not the news that a fifth person claimed that Murray had sexually abused him.

Jeff Simpson of Portland said Tuesday evening that he’s elated.

He’s a former foster child of Murray and one of the five men who have accused the mayor of sexually abusing them as children.

"Finally, he's doing something that's right,” Simpson said. “Unfortunately, we know that there is another victim because I know that there are several more victims that haven't come forward."

That fifth accuser is Murray’s cousin's son. Joseph Dyer told The Seattle Times that Murray abused him repeatedly over a year when Murray stayed with his family in the 1970s. Dyer was 13 years old.

Murray resigned two hours after the Times published its story. For months he had resisted calls for him to step down.

Mary Dispenza is with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. The former nun from Bellevue says she wishes Murray had quit sooner.

“My sadness was about another victim coming forward, and sadness over leaders like Ed Murray who are unable to face the truth, remain in their positions,” she said. “We need to remove them or force them to be removed, and that’s hard on the community. It’s not a happy thing.”

Danni Askini is with the Gender Justice League in Seattle.

“To hear survivor after survivor come forward and tell their tales of abuse, and then to watch as the mayor has used his position to belittle, demean and dismiss their accusations and to use his power and his office to really silence survivors has been exceptionally painful and I think is damaging.”

Askini encouraged young victims of abuse to come forward and tell adults in their lives about it until somebody believes them and takes action.

“There are adults who are willing to stand up to even some of the most powerful people in office in our state to say enough is enough,” she said.

Connie Burk with the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse echoed that.

“I really want gay and bisexual and trans survivors in Seattle and King County and the state to know that selling sex or being arrested or using drugs does not make it okay for anyone to rape or exploit them,” she said.

Murray is Seattle’s first openly gay mayor.

Louise Chernin with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce, declined to comment except to say, “This has been a hard time for our community.”

Ed Murray has denied all the accusations against him.

But in his resignation statement, he said: “To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation.”

Additional reporting by David Hyde.

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Year started with KUOW: 2009