Town hall moderator apologizes for heavy handedness; sexual assault survivor hopes to see action


Town hall moderator apologizes for heavy handedness; sexual assault survivor hopes to see action

By MATT BLOIS

The moderator of a town hall who told a survivor of sexual assault that her questions for state legislators weren’t appreciated apologized this week for being heavy handed in his response.

Following the apology, the woman who confronted legislators said she hopes to see some action to incorporate dissenting viewpoints at future public events.

At a town hall event on February 22 sponsored by Williamson Inc., sexual assault survivor and advocate Ashley Massey confronted state legislators about the appointment of state Rep. David Byrd — who has been accused of multiple sexual assaults against high schoolers decades ago — to an education committee.

When she asked legislators what kind of message that appointment sent to survivors of sexual assault, moderator Dave Crouch took the microphone away.

“We don’t appreciate you coming in,” Crouch said. “You can take that downtown.”

After the event, Crouch reached out to Massey and apologized over email.

“I have found that if I will take the time to listen to people until I understand why they feel the way they do, I usually appreciate their concerns and respect their opinions,” he wrote in the email. “I wish I had taken the time to listen to you.”

Williamson Inc., which organized the town hall, also reached out to Massey to apologize for the way she was treated.

Massey said she appreciated the apologies, but hoped to see some action backing up those words.

“With all apologies, they’re not going to work completely unless you see action behind them and changed behavior,” she said. “I’d really like to wait and see how others are accepted and how their voices are heard at future town halls, especially voices that dissent with the majority.”

In a phone interview, Crouch said he felt like he learned something from the encounter and hopes do a better job of listening to opposing points of view going forward.

“I reacted a little heavy handed, and I felt bad about that. I felt bad about losing my cool,” he said. “Next time something like that happens I’ll hopefully handle it a little differently.”

Despite the apology, Massey said she doesn’t expect leaders at the state level to start listening to dissenting opinions anytime soon. Earlier this week, she was part of a group of protestors who were ejected from a hearing of the House Education Administration Subcommittee, which Byrd chairs.

“There’s some parallels here between how I was treated on Friday (at the town hall) and what’s happening in the state legislature this week,” she said. “This behavior just keeps getting repeated.”

The political action group Enough is Enough TN is hosting a town hall to discuss the allegations of sexual assault against Byrd from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on March 9 at the Brentwood Library.

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