Finding support for victims after recent developments in Dan Peggs case, Eau Claire DA Gary King investigation
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Two high profile cases in the Chippewa Valley, both involving men in positions of power, brought forth recent developments that may be difficult for some to understand and accept.
On Monday, it was reported Gov. Evers would cancel an investigation into Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King after he announced his resignation. King is accused of sexually harassing female employees and working while intoxicated.
The next day, it was announced former Altoona School District Superintendent reached a plea deal, tossing out the most serious charges he faced.
Victim advocates say as cases involving people in power play out, it can not only affect those directly involved, but also victims of other incidents watching from the sidelines, especially when the consequences are less than what may have been expected.
“We have talked a lot about how it is impacting survivors in the area when someone in a position of power, someone that is making decisions on other peoples’ lives, has accusations like this against them and how that looks for the community,” says Kenzie B., a Human Trafficking Case Manager for the Family Support Center in Chippewa Falls. “If they have come forward and disclosed their experience to somebody, they are hoping for a result of that and they are hoping that result is them be heard, acknowledged, or a consequence coming out of it. What a consequence looks like to a victim is not the same as what it looks like in a criminal or judicial system.”
Five months after first going to human resources, the woman who reported Eau Claire County DA Gary King was sexually harassing her, is happy to see him resign and says she understands how the process would work.
“I truly do believe that is what is best for all of us involved, himself included. I am ready to move on and continue to do my job,” she wrote in a statement to WEAU which can be read in full at the bottom of the article.
According to an Evers Administration spokesperson, “The process of appointing a commissioner to conduct a hearing, make an investigation, and report testimony and proceedings was ultimately to be able to make a determination as to whether there was just cause to remove Mr. King from office. As Mr. King has since submitted his resignation, that process will not be completed prior to Mr. King’s departure, and upon Mr. King’s resignation, there will no longer be statutory authority to proceed with that process as he will no longer be in office.”
Another Eau Claire County employee reacted to news the investigation would not continue, writing in a statement to WEAU, “The general feeling in the office here is that it’s disgusting. Especially since it’s our jobs to protect victims. Sweeping it under the rug because he’s running away with his tail tucked between his legs doesn’t undo the damage done to the victims and our office.”
Kenzie B. says having a support system is essential for victims and can be helpful when those accused do not face the consequences that victims and community members had hoped.
“We talk a lot about what is in our power to control and what is not and how can we overcome the feelings of not being able to control that part of it,” she said.
The woman accusing King of sexual harassment credits support from co-workers for encouraging her to speak up.
“Even in the profession that I have, I still had guilt and doubt that it was something that I did to bring about this behavior. I think these are just natural thoughts and reactions that anyone would have. Victims need to know that it is okay to have these thoughts but then get rid of them, as you are not to blame.”
Eau Claire County Administrator Kathryn Schauf said in response to news the investigation into King would end:
“The position of District Attorney carries with it a large responsibility to seek justice for the people of Eau Claire County. As such, and based on the allegations that have been made about Attorney King, we would agree that Attorney King’s decision to step down from his position as District Attorney is the right decision, and the right thing to do to end the ongoing disruption to the work of the employees of the District Attorney’s Office and the justice system in Eau Claire County. The conditions that have been previously imposed upon District Attorney King that restrict his access to the government center, and prevent him from having one to one contact with county employees will remain in place until his resignation becomes effective on August 14, 2021.”
King will work as District Attorney until his resignation on August 14.
A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled for Dan Peggs according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Family Support Center is a free, confidential resource to survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation in Chippewa and Eau Claire counties, in addition to domestic violence services in Chippewa county. Talking with an advocate at Family Support Center does not constitute a report to law enforcement, and information will never be shared without consent. If anyone has experienced exploitation, sexual assault, harassment, or any other form of interpersonal violence, they can contact the Family Support Center at 715-723-1138. Advocates are available 24/7 and in-person services are available.
Statement from DA employee who filed initial HR complaint against Gary King:
“I am very glad that DA King decided to resign. I truly do believe that is what is best for all of us involved, himself included. I am ready to move on and continue to do my job.
Through my professional position, I know how the criminal justice system works and understood what it meant for the Governor’s office to get involved. I knew that when the Governor appointed a commissioner to investigate the charges against DA King, the goal would be to determine whether or not DA King should continue to hold his position. I also knew that as soon as DA King resigned, the investigations into his wrongdoing would be stopped. I was fortunate to have an understanding of that process beforehand because it made it easier for me to accept the results.
This is where I really feel that victims of any type of crime can benefit from having a support person to help guide them through whatever process they may be going through. This support could be victim witness, an advocate, legal representation or even a friend.
It was very hard to come forward relating to this incident. I had immediate support, right from the beginning. This is not something I kept quiet and from the beginning I reached out to people that I knew I could trust. When I finally decided to formally report, my intentions from the beginning were solely to make sure we all were working in a safe and comfortable environment. All of the jobs within the DA’s office and Victim Witness induce high levels of stress and I understand that stress can affect people differently. I just wanted to see him get the help he needed, however, that does not mean I am excusing what he did.
I want people who are in the same or similar situation to know that they can and should reach out. There are people out there that you can trust and that will support you no matter what you decide to do, including whether you decide to report or not.
I am very lucky to have had such great support from my co-workers. I was never made to believe that I was in the wrong or did something wrong. Honestly, on a daily basis I was told you did nothing wrong. Even in the profession that I have, I still had guilt and doubt that it was something that I did to bring about this behavior. I think these are just natural thoughts and reactions that anyone would have. Victims need to know that it is okay to have these thoughts but then get rid of them, as you are not to blame. We all have to be responsible for our own actions and to be held accountable.
I want everyone to know that this was the path that I chose, this may not be what is best for everyone but it was for me.”
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