"Hi, it's your newly favorite congressman, Bob Filner. You know, the one who fell in love with you at your last speech," he told Fernandez. He also asked her to dinner.
"I don't want to wait till you come back to have dinner with you," he said.
Filner had met Fernandez at a Healing and Hiring fair held by the National Women's Veterans Association of America.
Fernandez deleted the message immediately. When Filner's sexual harassment accusations were made public, though, Fernandez thought back to the message. To her surprise, it was still in her iPhone's voicemail trash.
"Ugh. It creeps me out, it creeps me out," Fernandez said. "The guy's got problems."
Fernandez, along with Army veteran Gerri Tindley, are two more of the 13 other women that have publicly accused the 70-year-old mayor of making unwanted sexual advances.
At least eight of the accusers are also veterans. Nearly all of the women were victims of sexual assault during their military service.
Fernandez and the other women say that Filner accessed a list of military sexual assault survivors using his power as chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. Survivors of sexual assault, they say, are less likely to report unwanted advances.
Fernandez said she was raped three times during her service. She had been silent because she, like many other victims, believed the system would not support her. Fernandez has since spoken out as a civilian.
When Filner and Fernandez met, they exchanged business cards.
"He looks at my card. He looks at me. He says, 'Fernandez. Are you married? Do you have a husband?' Very quick, very direct. I said, 'No, I'm divorced.' 'Well, you're beautiful, and I can't take my eyes off you, and I want to take you to dinner.' I was really shocked and I was like, 'Uh, OK,'" Fernandez said.
Filner called shortly thereafter. Fernandez never called him back.
During the same event, Tindley gave a speech about her own violent rape. Filner was running for mayor of San Diego at the time, and was scheduled to speak after Tindley. He introduced himself in the green room and asked her about her rape.
"He got as close as he could to me. His jacket was touching my jacket," Tindley said. "I was bent down. He was bent down with me, rubbing like he cared, like he was consoling me." She did not say anything at the time, for fear he would abuse his power as congressman.
"What am I gonna say? You're a congressman. What am I gonna say to you? What am I gonna say to his man? Can he destroy my life, can he stop me from moving forward?" Tindley said.
Filner is being sued for sexual harassment by his former communications director, and the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to sue him to recover costs associated with that lawsuit. City attorneys have ruled he may not be alone with a woman while on city business for liability reasons.
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