|Active on two fronts
RPís Katie Weber sees need for kidsí safety and her survival
Katie Weber’s not the type to sit back and meekly accept life’s vicissitudes. She’s been fighting for more than a year to improve the safety of school kids at the Rohnert Park Medical Center Drive and Snyder Lane intersection, where 2-year-old Calli Murray was killed and her mother badly injured in 2010 when struck by a teen driver.
She’s now 35, and as a 17-year-old living in Novato, she joined the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps in 1993 and was sent to Germany.
There, she was sexually assaulted by another soldier and coolly told to “talk to her boss,” another sergeant, like her assailant. The brutal episode resulted in an onslaught of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms for Weber. The Army quietly released her in 1995. This is the second battle she’s taken on.
PTSD fight in Congress
Weber admits this second battle takes up a lot of time, for she’s working with Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Peninsula Democrat, on revising long-standing tactics when handling sexual crimes in the military. More about this later.
She’s a dynamo living in G Section with her domestic partner, Troy, who brought in his two sons to live with Weber and her two daughters. They’re all in school, the oldest son at Santa Rosa Junior College; the other three in Rancho Cotate High School, Lawrence Jones Middle School and Evergreen Elementary. Her concern for student safety at this intersection is understandable.
Crossing signs were stolen
“For a couple of months, I volunteered I had a stop sign and walked kids across that intersection in the afternoons,” said Weber. “But I got busy with my other project with Jackie Speier, and I bought four traffic cones for the crosswalk. These worked very well, but I couldn’t be there all the time watching them. So, I tried leaving them in place overnight. In about 10 days they were all stolen.
“The city painted the crosswalk and put up a sign, but motorists don’t take them too seriously. I always see kids standing in a clump on the sidewalk waiting for a break in the traffic, but they’re mostly ignored by speeding drivers. It seems neither the high school or the middle school have means or money for crossing guards. The kids have to fend for themselves. I’ve seen drivers texting or on their cell phones going through this intersection,” she added.
She’s been to the RP City Council twice to address the council about the situation. They passed the problem on to the city manager, but nothing has happened. She plans to take her case to Brian Masterson, Director of Public Safety.
Weber would like to see flashing lights embedded in the crosswalk, like they have in downtown Petaluma. Maybe it’s a case of whose jurisdiction should handle the problem – the city’s Public Works crew, police headquarters or the school district. But of course, all three entities are still in the throes of deficit budgets.
PTSD, “Good Old Boy” system
Talking about her PTSD problem involves Speier and HR 3435 in Congress. It’s called STOP, or Sexual Assault Training, Oversight and Prevention. Weber is going to Washington next month to work with Speier and her Congressional allies. She calls her rape and indifference by her superiors an example of “the good old boy network.”
The subject has already reached nationwide attention and has spawned supportive groups. They include Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and Military Sexual Trauma Survivors (MSTS) and a few others.
Weber is still working with Veterans Affairs counselors in Santa Rosa to soften the PTSD burden she carries. Ever since the American government stumbled into an ill-advised war against Iraq, discussions about the subject have escalated.
A psychiatrist with the California Dept of Corrections was quoted, “PTSD is one of the more difficult diagnoses to treat. No particular medicine is highly effective and therapy is almost always long and arduous.”
No, Katie Weber is not sitting around crocheting doilies or working on jigsaw puzzles. She’s too busy making lunches, going to VA therapy sessions and phone talks discussing strategy with Speier.
The Chicago-born woman with a man and four kids in her home has two self-assigned campaigns simmering on her plate. One is crosswalk safety for school kids in RP. The second is her very personal campaign to strengthen safety for women in the military, a previously all-male bastion since the 1940s.
Bless you Katie Weber.