West Virginia Man Arrested in Sex Abuse Case Tied to Wicca

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 23, 2014 — 66 Comments

On Monday, police in Bluefield, West Virginia arrested James Irvin on multiple charges of sexual abuse and sexual assault against children. Local West Virginia media say that according to the police report, Irvin allegedly promised magical feats of healing and even resurrection of the dead so long as the children complied with his requests.

James Irvin. Screenshot taken from WVVA coverage.

James Irvin. Screenshot taken from WVVA coverage.

“According to the criminal complaint, two of the victims lived with their mother and stepfather in Irvin’s home on Giles Street when the alleged offenses occurred in 2007. The complaint states the alleged sex acts were performed under the guise of Pagan/Wiccan rituals, of which Irvin was a follower. One victim testified that Irvin forced her to perform the sexual acts, described as ‘magic’ to ‘make mommy well,’ the complaint states. [...] A third victim — a friend of the family — has also come forward to report that she was sexually abused by Irvin on four occasions at his home. She told police, according to the criminal complaint, that Irvin told her the ‘magic’ acts could ‘make her recently deceased father come back.'”

As news of this arrest spread through the Pagan community, anger at Irvin’s alleged crimes were evident, with some asking how anyone could distort Wicca, which places an emphasis on not harming others, into something that could encompass the sexual abuse of children. Cat Chapin-Bishop, former Chair of Cherry Hill Seminary’s Pastoral Counseling Department, with over 20 years of experience as a counselor specializing in work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse, says that in some cases religion or claims to supernatural powers are merely a means to an end for perpetrators of abuse.

“For some perpetrators the lies and deceptions they use to manipulate children are something they enjoy, in and of themselves. For others, they’re just a means to an end: controlling child victims. Whatever is the case here, as terrible as it is that our religious beliefs have been distorted in such an ugly way as part of this abuse, the real horror is the crime itself: children betrayed by adults they should have been able to trust. This is the real tragedy here.”

Covenant of the Goddess, a national organization that works to network and empower Wiccan and religious Witchcraft traditions in the United States, issued a statement on this arrest from its Hills & Rivers Local Council, which serves the Pennslyvania, western New York State, and West Virginia area.

“Our faith depends on strict ethics that ask us to harm no one. The Wiccan religion does not tolerate acts that abuse children in any way. It is against our code of ethics to do anything of this nature. We are disheartened to learn that anyone would use our religion to harm children.” – Lady Annabelle, First Officer of Hills & Rivers Local Council, Covenant of the Goddess and High Priestess of Grove of Gaia.

Lady Annabelle went on to add that Hills & Rivers Local Council has reached out to local media in Bluefield to, quote, “offer any information or assistance in the reporting of this story and future stories that involve Wicca and Paganism.” 

Chapin-Bishop, who recently wrote a guest post for The Wild Hunt on how to best respond to abuse within the Pagan community, adds that whatever Irvin’s beliefs may or may not have been, “it’s a good reminder to our community of the wisdom of doing background checks on anyone who is working directly with children. We may not detect every offender this way, but it will be worth it to detect those we can.” As for Irvin, he is currently being held on $100,000 bond, and may face additional charges according to WVVA’s Lindsay Oliver. We will keep you posted as this story develops.

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  • ELNIGMA

    Every time, anywhere across the nation, some perp looks to use a religion who adamantly condemns harming children as an excuse to do it, it’s universally condemn ed. Nobody has to point out they’re horrid, that Pagans, Wiccans, Heathens, Etc. etc. feel they belong in prison forever.
    That’s just obvious to anyone who pays attention.

    • LyndaLBD

      We need to point out that the child predator/child molester is to blame for his own actions, but will.use any sort of religion to justify his actions. He won’t take responsibility for his actions but will do what he can to destroy the credibility of a religion even if that religon does not condone his actions. A molester by any name of religion is still a molester.

  • ELNIGMA

    Also, glad this guy got caught – seven years later, unfortunately. I hope he doesn’t get bond and has a long prison sentence.

  • d

    pervs have been using religion and faith to get sex for as long as there have been religions. hope this guy gets the book thrown at him. not only did he hurt kids he insulted Wiccans.

    • Sandy Zimmerman Parks

      You are right. Sexual abuse has been around as long as there have been humans. It is just now, as we are turning into a global community, with information being passed around the world at the blink of an eye, we are hearing more about it than we ever did.

    • Friday

      I’d like to know if he even actually was using or ever said ‘Wicca,’ or if that’s an embellishment by the police or perhaps reporters. It doesn’t seem anything the people directly involved were saying, when more-directly quoted.

  • Daniel English

    Sexual abuse and the exploitation of children is a huge problem. Because children can’t defend themselves. No matter the faith it still seems very evident to me that people need to be on their guard. I wrote recently that Paganism is more accepting of sexuality thus it tends to be easier to criticize in a culture that has hypocritical values towards sex. Sex is not something to be ashamed of and is quite natural. Any faith worth its salt must realize that sexuality is a part of life. However, to use faith as an excuse for preying on innocent people is beyond reprehensible.

  • Rebbecca Garrett

    As a pagan, I am disheartened by this man’s acts. He has not only shamed himself but he cast a pall on the Pagan community at large. He has thrust us back to the way we were viewed in the 17th century when a witch hunt was just another activity to be done in a day. People think that we are a group with no governing rules or laws but that is not true. We have one major edict that must not be broken: Harm none. It is within us to use the magick of the universe and the gifts that mother nature provides to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally, ourselves and others. Our intent should never be to harm and certainly, children are to be protected. He is shaming himself with his behavior and it has nothing to do with Paganism or Wicca at all, he is an opportunist that will use whatever means to reach his goal. This man, ladies and gentlemen, is the pagan version of a Judas (a betrayer).

    • The Ragin Pagan

      While I agree that such acts are deplorable, and a bad representation of Paganism as a whole, let’s be a little realistic; no one has suggested any witch hunts. No one has insinuated that all Pagans are pedophiles and abusers. We’re not knocked back five centuries.

      Also Judas gets a bad rap in the Abrahamic spotlight. This dude is scum; he’s no Judas by any measure of the implication.

    • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

      > As a pagan, I am disheartened by this man’s acts. He has not only shamed himself but he cast a pall on the Pagan community at large. He has thrust us back to the way we were viewed in the 17th century when a witch hunt was just another activity to be done in a day.

      This guy may have molested a 13 year-old and a 9 year-old. And the first thing that comes to your mind is “OH NO WE MIGHT HAVE ANOTHER BURNING TIMES!1!1!”?

      • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

        To some people, their imagined “victimhood” is the only one that’s “legit”.

    • OHNOESBURNNINTYMES

      Wow, how far up your own ass are you? Please take your faux victimhood somewhere else.

    • Biolochic

      He’s no Judas to me because then I’d have to accept him as a fellow Pagan. I do not. He did not betray us as he was never part of us. Yes, we have bad people, just like anyone does but this “warlock” is a con artist and a despicable person, not a Wiccan.

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

    I hope Pagans will not lose heart over this terrible news. There are predators in every walk of life, in every religion. What they are seeking is opportunity: the opportunity to gain and betray our trust–the trust of our kids, and of our communities.

    The key is not despair, not beginning to mistrust one another on sight, or to blame the religious communities we have built for those who have exploited them. The key is to build in safety and precautions in our communal lives, especially with children, so that we will not be perceived by predators as any sort of easy hunting ground.

    It is not Wicca or Paganism that is at fault here: it’s the perpetrators. But we are not powerless. We can improve the safety of our communities, and we can discourage men like this from seeking entry among us.

    It’s not enough–nothing short of the magic words that would heal all the victims could possibly be enough. But it _is_ a lot, and we can do it together.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      Here are a few resources, for communities thinking of building in best practices around preventing child sexual abuse within community programs:

      http://www.scouting.org/Training/youthprotection.aspx
      http://www.riskmanager.net/wp/sector/ymca/
      http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/preventingchildabuse.html

      Of course, most abuse happens outside our gatherings. Sadly, the majority of child sexual abuse occurs with adults known to the kids’ families. Sometimes, the best we can do is deflect perpetrators from entering our communities to begin with, by removing the perception that our kids are unusually vulnerable, by giving careful thought to how we structure our programs and respond to reports of abuse.

      We may not be able to put an end to child sexual abuse within our communities entirely–no group has managed that yet, that I’m aware of. But acting within our communities, we can do our part to reduce the risk.

      • Raksha38

        Thank you for these and for the guest post you wrote. The most important thing communities can do in the wake of the arrests of these horrible people is to implement concrete changes in policy to prevent as much of this shit as possible. Thanks for laying out many of these steps for us all.

        • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

          I am heartened by the steps that some people in the community are taking. I am hoping that others will follow. For now I am cautiously optimistic, but will need to see something more than words, promises and policy statements. Because there have been many incidents like this before — this one being perhaps the ugliest, most spectacular and most widely publicized — which led to discussion and debate. And we can see how far that got us.

    • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

      The key is not despair, not beginning to mistrust one another on sight, or to blame the religious communities we have built for those who have exploited them. The key is to build in safety and precautions in our communal lives, especially with children, so that we will not be perceived by predators as any sort of easy hunting ground.

      The Pagan community has on multiple occasions protected multiple predators while shunning their victims. Given that, I think it’s entirely appropriate for a parent to say “I don’t feel safe bringing my children to Pagan gatherings.”

      I know you from Free Spirit Gathering, where Klein was a musical guest for several years. I’ve always respected you but since this scandal broke my respect has grown immeasurably. I know most of the organizers and staff at FSG and I am very fond of them. I have no doubt that you, or any FSG staffer, would speak up and take action if you caught a perpetrator in the act or if somebody brought a problem to your attention.

      Alas, I do not know everybody who attends FSG. I have no doubt that most are not predators, pedophiles, or creepers. But if the comments here and on other blogs are any indication, I also suspect that many attendees would stay silent rather than “start a witch war.” Others might justify the creeper watching my daughter because he never actually touched her, or say that they weren’t sure what he was doing with his hand and didn’t want to cause trouble. I’m not certain that the abuser’s friends wouldn’t rally around him and provide an alibi should push come to shove, or deny that anything took place. (Two words: Artemis Spinoza).

      Unreasonable? Maybe. But I doubt I’m the only parent who feels that way. And I’m not entirely sure that “it is not Wicca or Paganism that is at fault here.” Because there are a lot of people who seem content to sit on their collective tushes and let Karma and the Threefold Law protect their communities. There are a lot of others who seem more interested in protecting their right to free sex than in protecting the vulnerable members of our community. And there’s an even greater number who are hoping that we can lock Kenny Klein up, throw away the key, have a couple of “open and honest discussions” and then go back to business as usual without addressing any of the underlying problems.

      I think that people are at last taking this problem seriously. I applaud their efforts and hope they will be able to fix this mess. But until I see concrete steps taken to address this issue, I am not going to feel comfortable attending any kind of clothing-optional Pagan festival with her — and am going to be pretty damn selective about the clothed fests we attend. That’s not despair: that’s an honest risk assessment based on a dismal track record.

      • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

        I’m impressed your memory is so long, Kenaz; I haven’t attended a Freespirit in twenty years, and I don’t think I offered more than one or two very small workshops–maybe just the one, on sexual abuse

        In any case, I’m glad to have your respect–and of course, any parent who chooses to be choosy about where they bring their kids has mine. And while I was very happy to bring my own daughter to Freespirit and other, smaller and more local gatherings, I will also say that I made very certain that she was always in the company of people I had known for years. (There are advantages to traveling with your own coven, including being able to bring along the “village” that it takes to raise a child.)

        I wouldn’t disagree with you that large gatherings and festivals are places to take special care with our kids. I would, however, say that when parents take precautions, AND festivals take precautions, that combination is likely to be pretty solid. To the extent that festivals don’t have (and, more importantly, follow) good safeguards in place for work with kids and for tracking and reporting problematic behaviors, they are inadvertently advertising themselves as safe places for perpetrators to look for kids to prey on. Not good, to say the least.

        It might be worth remembering, though, that most kids are abused by adults who are known to their families. The time-limited nature of a festival or gathering restricts the time available for perpetrators to groom potential child victims–to get to know what their vulnerabilities are in order to exploit them. That’s not a perfect protection, of course, and as a parent, I certainly didn’t rely on that to keep my child safe at Freespirit or anywhere else. My point, though, is that it is not enough to keep our kids home from festivals and gatherings. As organizers, we need to think about child safety any time we set up an event where kids will be present–including at small local events. (I know I found small local events especially rewarding for us as a family–and much simpler to manage around safety concerns.)

        As parents, we also need to be aware that it is not just in the large, colorful gatherings of Pagans that kids are abused. We need to bring the same level of scrutiny to our adult friends, the parents of our kids’ friends, the coaches for youth sports leagues–in short, to the whole range of people and places that are regularly involved with children. Because any place that kids are left in the care of adults, known to us or not, they are at some level of risk. Most perpetrators are not obviously “creepers,” and we need to understand that, as well as the fact that it’s not just–in fact, not primarily–within large Pagan events that Pagan kids are abused.

        I hope you and your daughter have some great times together, locally or at larger events… and that we all find ways to make meaningful changes to shape our communities to be safer for all our kids, wherever they are.

        Blessings.

        • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

          My memory may not be so impressive as all that: I think I conflated events. (The one I’m thinking of is smaller and non-public). But you’ve been a real beacon of sanity and reason here, and your contributions are greatly appreciated here no matter where I know you from.

          You put your finger on the issue when you talk about the village it takes to raise a child. Pagan festivals don’t feel like my village right now, and the Pagan community doesn’t feel like my community. I remember an Orthodox friend who was raised Catholic saying that he didn’t leave Rome, Rome left him. That’s where I’m at right now, and I think many people feel the same way. Klein’s actions were appalling, but they could all be laid at the foot of one person. The reactions and non-reactions of many of those in what I thought was my community point to something a lot worse than one lone pervert prowling around.

  • Bob_Knows

    Published reports said that the MOTHER placed the girls into this situaiton and pushed them to participate in the abuse. Their mother had primary responsibility for protection of the girls, and was fully involved in the abuse. Yet only the man was arrested. Only the man is named, pictured, and shamed on this and other media. That is totally sexist.
    Statistically the worst place for children is with a mother and her latest lover. When children grow up with their one natural father the abuse statistics go way down. As a society the destruction of families and taking children away from their fathers is responsible for a huge increase in child abuse including sexual abuse and murder, but its not PC even to talk about the underlying problem, especially not in pagan space.

    • Wendy Griffin

      I’d like to know the source for your statistics.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Indeed, especially any correlation between taking kids away from their fathers and incidence of child abuse.

        • Friday

          I wouldn’t be stunned if there was a correlation between abuse and *broken* families, but claiming that abuse is *caused* by ‘absence of natural fathers’ is just a right wing talking point that’s been pretty well discredited.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            And that’s why I specifically want Bob Knows to cite a source.

          • Wendy Griffin

            And apparently, he can’t. His response was to “ask any CPS in any city in the US.”

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Yeah, I saw that, and when I came over to reply the comment had been moderated.

          • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

            A family can be “broken” and be the perfect image of a traditional family. Divorce sometimes can heal a situation where brokenness has existed.

    • Friday

      Well, before assuming it’s ‘sexist’ or ‘PC’ or has anything to do with ‘Pagan space’ …let’s see about some facts. It’s unclear what role the mother had in the complaint here, or where she is. Before claiming things about ‘destruction of families without fathers,’ notice he’d had a history of abuse complained about by his ex-wife in Texas and the kids’ stepfather was also present in the West Virginia house.

      Right now we have no idea what the mother’s status is regarding this. Or how much her claimed perception that the dude was a ‘warlock’ has to do with Paganism in the first place. (Only the police and some reporters seem to be making that interpretation so readily.)

      Taken at face value, even, all we see here is an abusive guy who made all these claims to get what he wanted, and it’s unlikely the mother of these kids just happened to think of telling kids to submit to sex with a guy who just happened to want to. So we don’t know what her state of mind is or was, then or now.

    • Gaddy

      Municipal law enforcement and local TV media outlets being sexist? Say it ain’t so!

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      The mother is “cooperating” with the police. That is why he is charged and she is currently not. The police evidently need her testimony, so they made a deal with her. They probably told her if she didn’t talk she wouldn’t ever see her children again.

      • Charles Cosimano

        She should never see them again in any event!

      • Bob_Knows

        Typical sexist injustice. He gets slammed into prison. She cuts a sweet deal and gets custody to do it all again. There is NO equal justice for men in the law.

    • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

      Ah, I love the smell of /actual/ sexism and victim blaming…

      • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

        I provided a link to his blog above. I’d advise bringing a gas mask along if you choose to read it, but it will give you a good idea of exactly what we are dealing with here.

      • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

        While there is an awful lot of it, this troll is quite recognizable by now. Hopefully, if we do not feed him, he will leave.

        • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

          Hence why I didn’t respond with a serious or length comment. (Though I am wondering why he’s still allowed to comment…)

          • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

            It should be taken care of now.

          • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

            Thank you!

        • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

          “[T]his troll is quite recognizable by now.”

          Speaking as a Usenet veteran, I must object. A troll says provocative and offensive things to get a rise out of people. The notorious “alt.f***.the.skull.of.jesus” crosspost was a troll. Somebody once described trolling as “acting like an asshole, then claiming you’re not really an asshole, you’re just acting like one. Which means you’re an asshole.” And having done my share of trolling, I can’t deny there’s a good bit of truth to that description.

          Bob_Knows is not saying offensive things to get a reaction. He’s saying them because he believes them. Which makes him considerably more unnerving than some obnoxious juvenile (of any age) acting out to get attention.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      Statistically the worst place for children is with a mother and her latest lover. When children grow up with their one natural father the
      abuse statistics go way down.

      Citation needed. Especially as I had an abusive father and complicit step-mother. He had three of us. None were truly spared his abuses.

      • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

        While Bob_Knows is putting things into the most offensive phrasing possible, he is not wrong that step-fathers and mothers’ boyfriends are statistically more likely to offend against kids than their biological fathers.

        None of which alters the fact that fathers do offend against their own biological children… as do friends of the family, members of the clergy, teachers, and youth leaders, among others. Nor does it change the fact that the most mothers are NOT complicit in sexual abuse, that the overwhelming majority of offenders are male, and that those mothers who are complicit in the abuse are very often subjected to physical abuse, often in quite extreme forms.

        Of course, knowing that I have a better chance of being killed in a car crash than struck by lightning is no reason to stand in the middle of a golf course during a thunder storm, waving a golf club over my head. Some individual men are unsafe, regardless of their relationship to a child. And statistics don’t matter at all to a victimized child.

        There is a dynamic around sexual abuse that is more common among men than women, and that is less common–though not rare–with a man’s own biological children.

        (If you need a citation, I’ve most recently read confirmations of it in Anna Salter’s book, Predators. But these dynamics are well known–unlike causes and effective treatments, which are still pretty mysterious, unfortunately.)

    • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

      Haven’t you embarrassed yourself enough already, Mr. Allen?

      • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

        Wow. “FagotFox”? Classy. Maybe he should learn to spell his bigoted epithets correctly.

        • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

          But he’s a philosopher and cyber libertarian! Clearly he isn’t bound to tyrannical rules about spelling. That’s just evil big government propaganda.

          • Bobbydoesn’tknow

            Oh libertarians. Call me when you get a political philosophy that is more developed than a 2 year olds NO phase.

        • Northern_Light_27

          Also, “Affirmative Action Bimbo”, “Psycho drugs”, and the “Shrink industry”. This guy is a real piece of work, like someone took a conspiracy theorist, a raving bigot, and a Scientologist and shook ‘em up in a blender and then poured the resulting mess into a blog.

    • A

      IF the mother was involved, she’s just as guilty and should receive punishment. As for the rest of your rant… maybe you should peddle your MRA misogyny some place else.

    • Lngtimepagan

      Judging by the reaction you got, Bob, suggesting any discussion of a not PC topic will get you tarred, feathered, and run out of town.

      • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

        Still aching for attention, Mr. Allen?

  • padawan

    as a pagan and a proud pagan i say give him to the victims for his punishment so that he may receive his just dues. People like him should be cut down where they stand.

  • thehouseofvines

    A lot of folks are really frustrated by this and feeling powerless to do anything. But there’s a whole hell of a lot that the average person can do.

    Jason Mankey has provided a handy guide to the neopagan summer festival circuit:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey/2014/04/summer-pagan-festivals-a-guide/

    I would recommend that people contact the organizers of every single one of those events and demand to know what policies they have in place and what steps they are taking to keep participants safe from predators. If they are anything but forthcoming and compliant don’t waste your time and energy arguing with them. Go above their heads and contact the actual land-owners as well as local law enforcement and media with your complaints. As we saw in Florida one person placing a simple phone call can make more difference than all of the BNPs and policy statements put together.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      Or, alternatively, we could take the time to inform ourselves about what good youth protective policies look like, and approach gathering organizers to see if they’ve got them in place and to offer to help develop them if they don’t.

      Oddly enough, many groups are actually open to developing such policies. And some have had most, if not all, of the features of good policies quietly in place for years. It’s not necessarily going to be useful to assume otherwise.

      In my experience.

      • thehouseofvines

        Considering the stories that have been coming out these last couple weeks, I would assume nothing.

      • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

        Maybe a list of festivals who do refuse to adopt such policies would be helpful as well.

        • thehouseofvines

          I think that’s a really good idea. As kenofken said above, we need transparency and accountability in our leadership.

      • kenofken

        It’s always best to try to do things constructively as far as possible. At the same time, we have to let leadership know that this problem will be addressed with or without them. Drafting policies in any case is maybe 10% of the solution. It’s an important foundation, but unless we cultivate organizational cultures of transparency and accountability, policies are just window dressing.

        • thehouseofvines

          That’s the thing. Any event organizers who have a policy in place and are diligent in enforcing it aren’t going to be offended by you asking about it. If they do, they’re as much a part of the problem as the abusers and frankly aren’t deserving of our dollars. The stakes are too high to mess around with this.

        • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

          Drafting policies in any case is maybe 10% of the solution. It’s an important foundation, but unless we cultivate organizational cultures of transparency and accountability, policies are just window dressing.

          This. x1000. I’m betting that a fair chunk of the people who have come forward with accounts of being harassed by Klein were attending events with policies stating that “WE DO NOT CONDONE SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ABUSE” etc. Having a policy is one thing: enforcing it is another. And dealing with a culture that treats accusers as the problem rather than the perp is still another.

    • PUF Children’s Staff

      Pagan Unity Festival (on that list) has extensive policies. I know because I helped develop them years ago when I became children’s activities chair, and in light of recent events have helped develop the staff training on incident response further because we are growing and taking on new staff and want to be sure everyone understands our system of reporting and their legal and ethical obligations. We have always printed our rules in the booklet as far back as I can remember but are now putting them online so that people know we have them before they get there.
      We’re in the process of updating our website to reflect some changes and reemphasize to our patrons that we take harassment and abuse seriously and that any incident reported to staff will be investigated fully (and that we follow mandated reporting for incidents involving minors), but we won’t be done until after our all staff meeting this weekend. We wanted this done in December but our founder’s mother was hospitalized and our winter all-staff had to be canceled. Nonetheless, our policies are expected to be freely available to the public prior to our 2014 event and we will answer any questions anyone has. We take the safety of our guests, especially our children, as top priority.
      Our founder, Tish Owen, has indicated that in the planned second edition of her pagan festival planning guide, Chasing the Rainbow, there will be a new section about how to develop policies and internal procedures around harassment and abuse, including tips for keeping kids safe at festival. We all look forward to continuing the dialogue about festival planning and safety and sharing our experiences and materials with others, as other organizations have with us in providing models for our policies.

      • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

        This is great news! I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for Tish’s book. (Perhaps TWH could run an item when it comes out?)

        • PUF Children’s Staff

          It will be next year at the earliest as far as I know (and I hope TWH will plugit). 1st edition is awesome but the revised will have more content.

      • thehouseofvines

        And you and groups with a similar level of commitment and foresight should be applauded for that.

        • PUF Children’s Staff

          It’s a group effort from the top down. We became aware early on that festivals can be a playground for predators and resolved that we would do anything and everything legally within our power to prevent harm to our kids and our adult guests. We have been lucky to have very few incidents (and none involving children), but the point of policies and training is to make sure everyone knows what to do and what to expect in the event of an incident while working pro actively to create a safe environment.
          Summerland Grove’s Festival of Souls has for the past several years used a “festival rights & responsibilities” piece I wrote and shared with their now-deceased founder in their festival materials, which I am happy to share for credited use by any event. It’s not intended to substitute for a formal policy, but to supplement it by expressing a series of expectations about behavior, the importance of consent, and respect for boundaries. It will probably be in PUF’s materials this year as well, but copies are available on request to popelizbet at gmail dot com.
          PUF’s harassment and abuse policy is modeled after that used by WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention, whose supporters have been at the forefront of the anti-harassment and abuse movement in SF/F fandom. WisCon has encouraged any event looking to draft a harassment and abuse policy to feel free to draw on their policies as a model. We have found their materials invaluable, and I strongly recommend that any organization looking to implement or improve upon a policy take a look at theirs for a well-tested model. I had to assist in reporting an incident at that convention a number of years ago and their staff was awesome in handling it respectfully and compassionately-which in its own small way contributes to everyone’s safety, as knowing you will be treated well encourages reporting. That’s the kind of precedent worth setting.

  • Lucy Drake

    We need to rethink how we see abusers. They are not dark strangers, they are people, people we know. Credible, kind, great with kids. This is the problem. When we make these sick, messed up people monsters we often fail to see them until far far too late. He used faith, he used it to make himself “powerful” and manipulate not only the children but everyone around him. If it wasn’t faith it would have been something else. That is what abusers do.
    As a survivor it has been much easier to forgive those, who are clearly ill in the head, than those who told me “I was making it up” that “I had a vindictive imagination” that the abuser was my victim. That he was “a good man”. This is because it was easier to believe that I was lying than he was a monster. If when banish this myth that will not happen as easily.

  • wildguy

    I see this discussion is reaching a COG style consensus. Anyone with another opinion has been attacked, driven off, and blocked. We few left all can pat ourselves on the back for “consensus process.”