***This Victim Impact Statement was read at Mr. Phares’ sentencing on 12/11/2018. We hope that this statement will encourage others to use their voices in difficult situations, and remind others to listen, and to believe victims.***
To the Honorable Judge Guerrero and to all who are listening.
What we share today is not only about fear, but is also a testament to the courage to listen and act.
Talking about the impact of someone else’s actions on our own safety and emotional well being is highly personal. Sharing the effects of those actions with the public and admitting the fear that shaped our lives is difficult – we don’t want to give Mr. Phares the satisfaction, and we don’t want anyone to think the power of a threat is an effective way to silence others.
The truth is that we wouldn’t be here had each of us not been afraid for our personal safety and that of people we know and love. Mr. Phares caused harm, by both making a threat, and having the means to follow through. He should know this. Since Mr. Phares’ threat, we found ourselves questioning not only our own safety, but the safety of others. This includes those who attend events we organize, our loved ones, friends, and coworkers. We had to have difficult conversations because we know that while some people only threaten, others threaten and kill. We can never know what Mr. Phares intentions were.
This brings us to courage. Today, we recognize those who took the time to listen and act on the voices of three women. This is no small act. We hope this statement will stand as a reminder that victims matter. Saying the truth is one step, but listening and acting is just as important.
We thank Detective Suzie Walsh and the SLOPD, Mr. Peuvrelle and the DAs office, and Victim Witness for their courage, commitment, and support in seeing this case through, rather than dismissing us. We also thank you. Some people have said that each of you should have done these things – this is your job. That is true. What is also true is that in many cases women’s voices are not heard, not believed, and not acted upon. We know that it takes courage to listen. It takes courage to believe. And it takes courage to act. We thank you for that.
We are also here today because of our own courage. We did not let silence speak for us, although it would have been easier to do so.
We want to say to all women, and people, who are or have been afraid of someone who is trying to silence them – what each of us faces may be different, and many face far greater threats for speaking truth in far softer voices – nonetheless, you matter.
We are earnest in sharing that Mr. Phares’ actions caused fear and harm. We are concerned about his continuous use of derogatory and offensive language on social media. We are concerned about his comments alluding to not following through with the anger management therapy. Based on those comments, we are not convinced that Mr. Phares realizes the harm he has caused, and we are concerned that he has no interest in correcting his behavior. We hope we will be proven wrong.
However, we are also honest when we say that fear will not keep us quiet, or stop us from working toward a positive and just future for all. We don’t act out of fear, we act in spite of it.
Dawn Addis, Women’s March San Luis Obispo Organizer
Andrea Chmelik, Women’s March San Luis Obispo Organizer
Heather Gray, Democrats of San Luis Obispo Club President