The I Love Me Foundation, a non-profit founded to raise awareness nationally of LGBT sexual violence and provide support to LGBT survivors of domestic abuse and sexual trauma, has issued a statement saying it is “prepared to assist the victims of Mayor John Duran with mental health and legal resources.”
The announcement was part of an email message to members and supporters of the foundation and West Hollywood City Council members from Dr. Lauren D. Sullivan, its interim executive director. In the message, Sullivan said she was conveying a message from the Foundation’s president and chairman, Robert Harrell, that the “recent announcement of several sexual misconduct claims against West Hollywood May, John Duran has sent shockwaves throughout the LGBTQIA Los Angeles Community.”
“Like everyone else I was shocked and disgusted to learn of allegations of West Hollywood Mayor John Duran,” the message said. “The announcement triggered in me the same emotions that I’ve experienced in abuse situations. Harassment has been allowed to exist (and some would say flourish) because of position and power seem to always takes precedence over everything else…where the safety of an individual is deemed less important than the success of the greater goals; where the feelings of violation and fear are seen as an overreaction to what has happened; where there is outright denial of someone’s very personal, painful experiences.
“The single biggest effect of the events last year is that we saw men experiencing consequences for their bad behavior. We had never seen that on such a scale before. It empowered us (as survivors) and gave us hope that things could be different. For Mayor John Duran to hold such a position of influence and take an oath to serve and uplift the community and be accused of committing sexual abuse seems to have weakened that giant step forward, and that our progress was being undermined. We as an organization and community are asking for officials of West Hollywood to remove John Duran of his post as Mayor IMMEDIATELY. We are also asking local law enforcement to look into allegations for possible criminal arrest. We are asking the City of West Hollywood to stand up with and FOR the victims who have come forward and the others that will.”
Duran recently announced that he will be stepping down as chair of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit whose board he has overseen for a number of years, after publication of stories in WEHOville and in the L.A. Times of stories in which young members of the chorus alleged sexually inappropriate behavior by him and by Jonathan Weedman, the chorus’s executive director. Both Duran and Weedman have denied the allegations, and Duran has said he is leaving the board because of a “toxic” environment at GMCLA that he attributes to the allegations about him.
Duran has been accused of behavior like putting his hand into the underwear of chorus members and making inappropriate sexual comments to them. Weedman has been accused of forcing a then-20-year-old chorus member to perform oral sex on him. After WEHOville contacted GMCLA board members about the allegations, the organization hired private investigators to look into the allegation against Weedman and one of those against Duran. Duran has said neither investigator was able to gather evidence sufficient to validate the allegations. In 2016, the City of West Hollywood paid $500,000 to Ian Owens, the deputy to Duran, who accused Duran of sexually harassing him at work. The city and Duran denied Owens’ allegations, although a private investigator did report inappropriate sexual comments by Duran to city employees. Duran admitted hiring Owens after meeting him on Grindr, the gay hookup app, and having sex with him.
“It’s critical that we take responsibility for protecting ourselves and our community, especially for sexual abuse survivors including those of the trans community,” Harrell’s message said. “This will include requiring our employers (government and otherwise) to build safe workplaces, to have zero tolerance for harassment. But more importantly, we need to speak up for ourselves and others. We need to engage in the discussion in places that we can have impact. We need to know what resources are out there for us.
“As an advocacy group, The I Love Me Foundation is committed to pushing for a safe working place for all people in regardless of nationality, gender, religious or social status, but especially for persons identified as LGBT and people of color who are the most marginalized and underrepresented in community funded dollars and resources. We are prepared to assist the victims of Mayor John Duran with mental health and legal resources. If you or someone you know is subjected to sexual harassment and need information, you can find resources on our website at www.i-loveme.org or call Sexual Harassment Help Line: (323) 545-0333.”
The foundations board of directors includes well known local LGBT people such as Yawar Charlie, a realtor who is a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Mark Anawalt, a co-owner of Anawalt Lumber and the foundation’s chief administrative officer.