Concerned Pagans form the Council of the Phoenix to Address Abuse

Heather Greene —  May 4, 2014 — 77 Comments

In the wake of recent discussions about security and safety at Pagan events, a new organization has formed to directly handle such issues. The Council of the Phoenix is a group of professional counselors, abuse survivors, and concerned individuals who are “motivated to keep the sex-positive community of Pagans safe through educations and guidelines.”

[Courtesy of Council of the Phoenix]

[Courtesy of Council of the Phoenix]

The Council of the Phoenix was initially created by Green Egg Magazine editor Ariel Monserrat. For 16 years, Ariel has worked as a professional psychotherapist for abuse survivors, pedophiles and families experiencing the harrowing affects of abusive situations. When news of Kenny Klein’s arrest was made public, Ariel began formulating a plan. For days she combed through articles and comments on the subject. She said:

I realized that the community as a whole was hurting and that we all needed to have a place to talk about this and to do something to protect our children in the future … [Since] I’ve worked with this a lot and I figured this was something I could do.

On April 2 Ariel posted an open letter to the Pagan community on Green Egg’s home page. In that letter she “put out a call for anyone wishing to participate.” The letter reads:

 I have chosen to spearhead a campaign to establish a central committee for reporting child sexual abuse in our Pagan community. I don’t have a complete plan yet, and I need the input from the Pagan community at large.

Now one month later the Council has “quite a few people on board” with more joining each day. Two of its earliest contributors were Green Egg Web Manager Sylveey Selu, and Klein’s ex-wife and the founding Priestess of Blue Star Tzipora Katz. Ariel considers them both council founders. Sylveey is responsible for much of the groundwork and logistics. Tzipora has contributed “valuable ideas from her own experience” to help with programming. Tzipora says:

[This is] something that I had wanted to see some 22 years ago. When Ariel reached out to me I was only too happy to add whatever support I could so that no one else ever had to feel the isolation and abandonment my own family experienced.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight [Photo Credit: S.A.Knight]

Shortly after the open letter was published, Shauna Aura Knight joined the Council in order to connect with others who are “looking for ways to help solve these problems.” As both a teacher and writer, Shauna is often confronted by stories of abuse. She says:

Sexual abuse in the Pagan community wasn’t news to me … Mostly I hear about egomaniacal, emotionally abusive leaders, but I also hear about group leaders and teachers pressuring people for sex, as well as rape, harassment and other abuse. Most of that gets swept under the carpet as “You’re starting a Witch War” or “It’s sour grapes,” or “That’s just he said/she said,” and so people keep quiet. Actually—I’ve been through it myself with an abusive ex who was also my co-teacher. Many times I’ve thought, “How do we change this?”

Casey's picture

Casey Whitworth [Photo Credit: C. Whitworth]

Other founding members include Blue Star Priestess Kristin Barton who has “training in community violence prevention, human services administration and domestic abuse advocacy;” author Tish Owen who has nearly two decades of experience operating a large alternative-religion festival; graphic designer Casey Whitworth who wants her experience as a survivor to help others.

Many of those involved were unable to give their names due to the sensitive nature of their professional work. Ariel says:

We have several people with professional experience who have been counselors or at a management level in social work, and who are familiar with domestic violence and molesting. We also have a [consulting] psychotherapist who has decades of experience in working with sex offenders … We also have several top notch researchers who can do background checks and the like on individuals in our community.

Along with these professionals, Council members also include survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. According to Ariel, these people are invaluable because “they know what is needed in order for healing to take place.” One of these survivors is Donald Bates. He says:

There are too many walking wounded out there … I want to be there for the walking wounded and the children. I have firsthand knowledge of being abused. I was sexually abused, by my uncle for nine years and I personally know how alone and ugly you can feel. The council will be able to open up these avenues for communication, so we can find and connect with the walking wounded and help those that are being abused. That is why I want to be part of the council.

[Courtesy of The Council of the Phoenix]

[Courtesy of The Council of the Phoenix]

While its currently only at the very beginning stages of development, the Council of the Phoenix will eventually offer both professional and peer counseling services as well as education and training for event coordinators and leaders; awareness building; assistance at events for maintaining safe space. Shauna adds that part of that education will be teaching “what consent means and what sex positive actually means.”

The founders are also developing “safe zone kits” that will assist festival organizers work “proactively against violence by promoting a consent culture and healthy relationships in the Pagan community.” A “safe zone” is a private location within the festival that is open to anyone needing to escape an uncomfortable or abusive situation. The zone ideally would be staffed by a counselor or other similar professional who has the training to handle sensitive situations with compassion and clarity.

In addition the Council also hopes to “act as an information clearinghouse” for suspicious behavior; a place to report problems. Ariel says:

We are not trying to start a witch hunt; this info will be kept within our council and only when we have sufficient evidence or very strong suspicion due to a number of reports, will we disseminate this info … We are still working out the details on this, as we all feel strongly that we never want to accuse anyone falsely.

Over the next few months the Council plans to contact festival leaders and organizations in hopes of working in tandem for a safer community. As the program develops and grows, the Council will update its new website and Facebook fan page. It has also set up a crowdsourcing campaign to help fund the project.

Ariel and the other founding Council members are excited about the Council’s huge potential to benefit so many people in so many places. Shauna adds, “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I believe that some of the steps the Council is looking at are a place to start.”

Correction: The original article said that Tish Owen had been operating a festival for 10 years. The Pagan Unity Festival of Tennessee is now in its 17th year. 

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Heather Greene

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Heather is a freelance writer and Pagan spirit living in the Deep South. She is currently the National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess and has worked extensively with Lady Liberty League. Heather's work has been published in Circle Magazine and elsewhere. She has a masters degree in Film Theory, Criticism and History with a background in the performing and visual arts.
  • Kirk White

    This is wonderful. I just wrote on a previous Wild Hunt entry that I felt that we need a group like this. I believe that there is much that we can borrow and learn from other groups doing similar work – such as the Burner community. I’d be happy to help.

  • Sharon Igoe Von Behren

    How does one join the Council. This is a new thing to me, and I am interested in joining. Thanks!

  • Councilofthephoenix

    Heather, thank you for this wonderful article. I think you did a great job on this and it was also very accurate.
    Kirk, Sharon and anyone else, If you’d like to join the council, simply send me an email to: councilofthephoenix.com with your name and email. We can’t have too many people working on this project and it will take quite a few people to do outreach to festival organizers and other Pagan group leaders to disseminate information about us and work with them in formulating suggested guidelines re: safe zone, etc.

    • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

      I hope there will be outreach to festival organizers to participate in this effort? It would be good to see collaboration from Pagans with an array of skillsets.

      It does seem as though psychotherapists will be well represented–hopefully, the effort will involve Pagans in law enforcement, legal professionals, festival organizers, and perhaps some with volunteer supervision and training experience?

  • PUF Children’s Staff

    Couple of notes: Tish’s last name is Owen, not Owens, and Pagan Unity Festival is in year seventeen. I applaud this council and hope it thrives.
    PUF’s anti-harassment and abuse policy has been finalized and will be on our website sometime this week. Our staff training on reporting went very well and we can’t wait for another fantastic year of festival.

    • http://www.miraselena.com/ Heather Greene

      Apologies for those errors. I made those changes in the article.

      • PUF Children’s Staff

        Not a problem. Just wanted to clarify; appreciate your taking the time.

  • Deborah Bender

    It is a sign of maturity that our community has the resources and will to form an organization like this.

    You have set an ambitious plan of action. It’s achievable, but not overnight, so please take care to create an organizational structure that will work over the long haul. Among other things, you need good processes for resolving internal disputes.

  • Joy

    Thank you for getting the word out. I can’t tell you how important it is for those of us who have experienced abuse to know that we are not alone and that our experiences matter. No matter how old you get or how much you have worked through in your life, the subject still cuts to the bone every time.

    It is not always easy to speak up after going through something that by its very nature reinforces the idea that you and your safety don’t matter. It is VERY hard to speak up when you are pretty sure others will tell you in so many words, once again, that you and your safety don’t matter. (This has happened and continues to happen.) However, it is getting easier to speak up now, knowing not only that there are others out there who care but also that they too are becoming more empowered.

    • Councilofthephoenix

      Hi Joy: thanks for sharing, it’s important IMO for people to feel safe in speaking out and that’s one of the things we’ll be working on. Peace to you. – Ariel

  • Jim Hines

    I think this is a noble and worthy endeavor. The children of our community are our future, and every effort should be made to protect them from this kind of harm. I can’t help but have some concerns regarding confidentiality and under exactly what conditions that information would be disseminated, and to whom the information would be shared with. As this is a brand new group, I’m sure many of the details have yet to be worked out. As we all know, this is very much a “hot-button” issue for many of us, and for some, passion may overcome the absolute need for confidentiality during the process. To that end, and as the group becomes fully on line, it would be helpful to know the identities, and qualifications of the folks that would be parsing and analyzing the data. As a event organizer in the Pagan community, before I would feel comfortable sharing this kind of information it would be essential that a level of trust be developed and that I could be sure that no one with access to it would take any premature and unilateral action before consensus was reached by the group. Limiting the access to initial data to trained professionals might be a good start, or alternatively, having the folks viewing the data do so “in the blind” keeping the identities of the “suspects” anonymous (numbering the cases, using fake names, etc.) until a decision is reached. Handled with appropriate care, discretion and equal-handedness, this could be an incredibly powerful tool to help insure the safety of our most-at-risk community members. I applaud the Council for taking a stand, and for making this effort. I look forward to seeing how this develops, and hope it turns out to be every bit the force for good it has the potential to be. Thanks again.

  • Raksha38

    This is such a wonderful idea and I am so, so happy to see people being proactive and taking concrete steps to deal with the horrible abuse that’s been going on. I’m on an extremely small fixed income, but I’m still going to do my best to kick a few $$ to this organization whenever I can (in fact, I just donated to the crowdfunding campaign, like, two minutes ago!). I’m begging others to do the same. We really need something like this organization.

  • Discouraged

    Thank you. More reporting like this is needed. Please keep tabs on this and follow up. It’s important for news outlets to be watch dogs of the community they serve.

  • Discouraged

    Wait, I’m confused, Is this in response to a specific incident? Or Arizona is just coordinating in response to general sexual abuse?

  • ELNIGMA

    The Council sounds like a giant mistake, if it’s intention is to “address abuse”. Dealing with sexual predators is “above your pay grade”. Kick out dangerous persons,and report predators to child welfare.

    Post abuse counseling is also too serious for Pagan seminar/ workshops.

    • Mr. Bobknows

      An unorganized, unofficial, group of folks going around hunting down and pointing out sexual deviants. Yeah, nothing could ever go wrong here.

      No one suspects the Pagan Inquisition. Our chief weapons are fear, surprise, an Internet connection and a fanatical devotion to making wild accusations.

      • Gabriel

        No one is or has been pointing any fingers at anyone. Our purpose is to address abuse by encouraging people who have been abused to report that to the appropriate authorities. We want to provide abused people with all the resources that we can to help them overcome the effects of that abuse. To lend a hand to someone who is suffering is not “above my pay grade” or anyone elses for that matter.

        • Tommy

          Right, but also what’s potential here is a displacement of responsibility, which some Pagans and Pagan groups are notoriously good (bad) at doing. Now, dysfunctional Pagan leaders will have just one more tool to help them pass the buck. Why complain to your local Pagan council, or CUUPS national, or the people who own the space your group is renting for meetings when now you can write a letter to the Council of the Phoenix… who in all reality has absolutely nothing to do with your problem personally or locally?

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Hopefully, the Council will do the hard and vital work of making the connections with local councils and groups, and will see their role as providing coordination, training, and backup for local groups to work effectively on their own.

            Certainly, I would have concern that a single national group that did not coordinate and work through and with local groups would, if nothing else, be unable to keep up with the workload.

            Local groups will have to become part of the effort for it to succeed, it seems to me, and a national group needs to be wise enough to cultivate, not supplant, local leadership.

          • Councilofthephoenix

            We are right now planning on how to get local groups involved. It would be bad judgment to do otherwise, IMO.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Excellent!

          • ELNIGMA
          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            You are very welcome. *smile*

          • Councilofthephoenix

            That isn’t what we’re planning on doing. We will have local council branches to deal with things on a local basis, as clergy et al who are trusted by local Pagans would be far more effective.

        • ELNIGMA

          Handing out flyers giving numbers for professionals and reporting abuse is not above anyone’s pay grade, but planning to do more than that – does.

      • Councilofthephoenix

        If you read the article you would know that this is NOT what we are about. And we are organized. How about you read our mission statement? We aren’t out to ruin anyone or point fingers at the innocent. We are Pagans who are concerned about other Pagans. I also know someone close to me who was falsely accused of child molesting and I’ve seen what it did to him. We are responsible adults working on this.
        Why do you feel the need to tear down something without knowing much about it?

        • Mr. Bobknowsagain

          Typical response. I read the article and misson statement. Mission statements mean nothing. The actions your group takes matter. I offered an opinion that questions the legitimacy and power of your group. How you respond is what I pay attention to. So far I’m not impressed. I hope that opinion changes with future action.

        • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

          Bobknows has demonstrated his antagonism to all efforts by the Pagan community to address sexual abuse or the need to create safer communities around abuse. I’m not sure engaging with him will accomplish anything but giving him a sense of satisfaction.

        • Sapienti

          I would like to interject into your conversation with Bob. I understand that you are responsible adults but it is often responsible adults that start off with good intentions and get caught up in a firestorm later. Also, if you are successful can you assure the community that those who follow you will be as responsible with the power structure you create?

          I still haven’t had my original questions answered. Here they are again:

          What is considered sufficient evidence or strong suspicion?
          Who gets to determine this?
          By what criteria are these determinations made?

          Who will be held responsible if they tarnish someones reputation based on false information?

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Reputations should not be on the line from the work of such an organization, because determinations of guilt or innocence need to be left to the legal system.

            However, on a private, event or community-specific level, first hand reports that seem credible should be enough to trigger an internal process. Depending on the specific situation, that internal process might be as mild as giving someone a verbal warning on their behavior, and recording that an incident was reported (for event or community leadership’s eyes only) or be as moderate as working out an agreement specifying on what conditions someone who has been the subject of an allegation will be allowed to continue to attend the event… or, at the extreme end of the spectrum, result in a ban on attending the event, a report to law enforcement, and perhaps even a quiet word to other festival or event organizers that someone’s actions have been a problem in at least one group. At that end of the spectrum, perhaps Council of the Phoenix would have a role to play–or perhaps their role is in creating model policies, with the assistance of festival organizers, that other groups can adopt or modify if they see fit. Perhaps their role will be to advocate that groups adopt such policies.

            In any case, there are far too many variables to allow anyone to write a good policy in the comments section of a blog. A good policy will take a long time to create, and still be very difficult to implement. This is, at best, the first step in a very long journey. I don’t think anyone can show you snapshots taken at the destination just yet.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            [T]here are far too many variables to allow anyone to write a good policy in the comments section of a blog.But these critical comments give an opportunity to take some first broad strokes toward such a policy, which you have done in a remarkably short time.

          • Sapienti

            Its up to each group to create a system to deal with problems that arise. I have no issue with that as long as it is done fairly. However, as I stated before, I have an issue with this group creating a database built on heresy and gossip and then distributing that to another party. A third party that has no contact nor understands another groups social dynamic is not capable of determining what is legit or not, aside from actual criminal records. You would be setting yourself up for legal issues.

            I fully support creating fair and unbiased guidelines for handling situations that arise. I would also support the COP assisting leaders by giving advice to those who seek it. What I will not support is a creation of a database built on accusations.

    • Tommy

      Unfortunately this rings fairly true. While it might not be a mistake to have a particular Pagan organization to address sexual abuse survivors, it is certainly not appropriate to have one as a line of defense against actual sexual predators in lieu of or before actual law enforcement.

      • ELNIGMA

        “I have chosen to spearhead a campaign to establish a central committee for reporting child sexual abuse in our Pagan community”
        The law requires anybody who is clergy that they don’t go sneaking it to a central committee or “Council of the Phoenix” (even if there was one in every town), rather they report it to the civil authorities.
        Even if someone isn’t clergy, that’s probably a good idea.
        Also, morally kick/ban them out of coven/groups/associations/festivals, etc.

        • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

          Actually, that’s not entirely the case. Mandated reporters do sometimes follow protocols that allow institutions rather than individuals to make reports of suspected abuse–as when in the public schools, teachers report suspicions to either the principal or counselor, who makes the actual report.

          Festival organizers may well decide that having a central reporting person makes the most sense. This would make sure the festival has internal records as well as makes any required reports. Of course, individuals can always make reports directly whether or not they are clergy, but there are some advantages to having local-level coordination in specific Pagan communities. Otherwise, it becomes very hard to have a consistent, coordinated response.

          Many gatherings already do have something like this in place. Hopefully, with encouragement and coordination from a national group like the Council of the Phoenix, more will. It’s not about sneaking or avoiding responsibility–it’s about sharing best practices with one another.

          • ELNIGMA

            Cat, your previous article was a great step in encouraging best practices, and I’d be interested in hearing more from you. But I think this Council/Committee might be not exactly going the direction you sounded like you wanted in said article.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            I hope there will be many groups that make a start. I’m sure that they will each have a particular mission and set of services they look to provide. I wouldn’t expect any group to be a mirror image of the ideas I wrote about in my article.

            I’m not affiliated with this group, or any other similar group at the moment. But I hope that all the groups that take up the challenge of making our communities safer from sexual predators go beyond whatever I have written, and draw from experiences much wider than mine. I have been a psychotherapist–but this effort must draw on the talents and experience of survivors, lawyers, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, local festival and event organizers, and no doubt many others.

            Creating a healthy coalition takes time. Council of the Phoenix is brand new. Hopefully, however, with time, they and other groups on a local or national level will draw from all those varying sources of experience to create the most productive approach to the issue.

            I wish the Council of the Phoenix every success in pulling together just such a chorus of wise voices.

          • ELNIGMA

            I’m not confident in this group, and I trust my instincts and judgement. I’m not surprised you aren’t part of it. I don’t think even the name is in good taste, I think it should be shuttered.

          • Sapienti

            Aside from producing guild lines for handling difficult situations I have no confidence in this group either. Creating a database and then using their judgement on what is true or false and then distributing it disturbs me greatly. I feels almost like vigilantism. What’s to keep Mary getting pissed at Tom and getting her 3 best friends to claim that he groped her at an event and putting him on a list that this group may distribute?

      • ELNIGMA

        that quote was from Ariel. I found it disturbing. I also am not thrilled with the name.

        • Gabriel

          “I have chosen to spearhead a campaign to establish a central committee for reporting child sexual abuse in our Pagan community. I don’t have a complete plan yet, and I need the input from the Pagan community at large”
          Actually this is the entire quote. If you want to discuss something correctly then don’t half quote someone. We do want and need ideas and input from everyone in order to make this work. There is a difference between heartfelt ideas, criticism and concern for what we are trying to accomplish, and flaming over the name.

          • ELNIGMA

            I was not trying to misrepresent hir words
            I repeated what I understood/still do as hir meaning, which even in your longer quote, is off-putting at the least, same as the name

        • JAFO

          Antagonist. That would be you. Nothing anyone will say will impress you, and most victims simply do not care about what antagonists have to say.

          • ELNIGMA

            Are you serious? I’m trying to prevent there being victims.
            this is border or worse slander.

    • Councilofthephoenix

      Does having several professional therapists who are very familiar with this area address your concern? I have 16 yrs as a psychotherapist with sexual/domestic abuse survivors and those with chemical dependency. I ran an outpatient therapy program as well for a non-profit. This was mentioned in the article. We also have an executive director of domestic abuse programs.

      • ELNIGMA

        No. That does not address the concern.

  • Viktor Khan

    Though I find great that this people are doing something to help their communities and covens to help prevent abuse; I find it rather inconvinient that they decided to name themselves with a name that sounds as if it came from a Harry Potter book/movie (without trying to sounds mocking, it sounds like “Harry Potter and the order of the formerly Mollested”), I think that your organization diminishes its seriousness with a such a name. Aside from that minor mishap, it’s a great idea.

  • Tommy

    We need to do this for wider political reasons right, but I think it’s important to remember that other problems exist that cause worse damage in the long run. It’s easy enough to pass on so much blame and shame to pedophiles because the wider phobia is that gypsies, the boogeyman, pirate alien child rapists are going to come and murder our children any second. That kind of hysteria I would say, with utmost certainty is worse than pedophilia itself. The clashing of ego’s and silencing of otherwise reliable and cogent Pagan voices is another one of those problems when such hysteria leads to “Witch Wars.” At that point there is no justice at play, only a heap of lies in the crossfire. So sure, I’m glad this is being done, but at the end of the day what is still called for, what is still required in our communities is true respect and responsibility by all those wishing to participate, and not just for however long the ‘show’ or event lasts and better leadership all around.

    • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

      I believe these concerns are misplaced.

      • Mr. Bobknows

        And others don’t.

      • Tommy

        I hope you’re right.

    • Councilofthephoenix

      Re: your last sentence – And that is exactly one of our goals.

  • Sapienti

    While I support the idea of addressing these issues within the community there are some things I find disturbing about this proposed group. I am troubled by the following comment, “when we have sufficient evidence or very strong suspicion due to a number of reports, will we disseminate this info ” What is considered sufficient evidence or strong suspicion? Who gets to determine this? By what criteria are these determinations made? Who will be held responsible if they tarnish someones reputation based on false information?

    I also hope that the information, guides and safe zones are done fairly and in a way that is gender neutral. The comment, ““what consent means and what sex positive actually means” applies to both genders. As a gay man I have had to deal with women not knowing what the word no means. It’s not just men who don’t know when to keep their hands to themselves.

    • Shauna Aura Knight

      Sex positive indeed refers to all genders. People of any gender can be harassed and raped. People of any gender can be abusers.

      • Sapienti

        I’m glad to hear that this is the position of the group. I suggest that it be emphasized in any materials you put out. There are many in the pagan community that do not share this view.

        • Shauna Aura Knight

          In Cara Schultz’s article on the topic of abuse and harassment, she brought up things that happen at scifi/fantasy conventions including “kilt checks.” Like so many things out there that are pushing physical boundaries, most people just say, “Oh, it’s all in good fun.” But it’s not, it’s something that’s done without consent. It’s harassment, and it’s not ok.

          Statistically, yes, it’s often women being abused and harassed by men. But, I’m familiar with female coven leaders who have engaged in some pretty heinous abusive things too.

          But, I’ll save my soapbox for another day on that. If you’re interested, I’ve written a few blog posts on this topic (with more planned).
          This one was on Pagan Activist back in October:
          http://paganactivist.com/2013/10/28/sex-ethics-and-paganism/

          and I also have the below post on my regular blog, and if you go back 5 posts or so on my main blog page I have a series I started (but haven’t yet finished) on Pagans and predators. http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/abusive-leaders-grooming-and-seduction/

          • Sapienti

            Thanks for the links. Your articles are well done. I plan on checking out your other posts when I have time. I have a link for you to check out. I think you will find it very interesting and it is relevant to the topic at hand.

            http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_are_sexually_assaulted.html

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Sadly, the most surprising statistics in the article, from Stemple’s study, not only contradict decades of other research, but they are behind a pay wall. Without more information than the Slate author chose to reprint or than is available without a subscription to the journal in question, it’s just impossible to evaluate her claims.

            I’m quite eager to hear what the response will be from other researchers in the field. Unfortunately, it’s too early for that, and without a subscription to the journal in question, I can’t even find out the first thing about her methodology; her abstract is frustratingly uninformative.

            I don’t think we can know yet if there’s anything in the Slate article of any real significance, beyond the observation that men are victims of sexual assault, too… which is very well understood. Certainly, I have worked with a good many male survivors of sexual abuse in my day, and I can only agree that sexual violence is damaging wherever it occurs.

  • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    A couple of thoughts –

    First, very shiny that folks are doing this. HOWEVER, I think that this is the wrong way to go about it. If you are clergy, and suspect that abuse may be occurring, aren’t you required to report this to local law enforcement? Isn’t it better to allow someone who is not emotionally invested in the community and who is trained to investigate things like this to do to take of it? What about paper trails? If someone is accused by this group, can’t they go after you for slander or defamation of character? How are you planning on protecting victims if and when you accuse someone?

    • kenofken

      If the plan is to do internal investigations in lieu of reporting to authorities, this is going to turn out exactly the way it did for the Catholics.

      • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

        Actually, without some internal process for at least logging reports of abuse, it will be impossible for festivals to respond consistently and appropriately to those who are suspected of abuse. While any individual _may_ make a direct report to child protective services, having a local-level process to at least log allegations will be important if we want our communities to respond appropriately to allegations of abuse; child protective services is not going to inform local-level festival and community organizers.

        Internal investigations _can_ be used as they have by the Catholic bishops. Or they can be used as they are by the Boy Scouts of America, who use them to enforce compliance with a youth protection policy by everyone who has contact with children. There is a place for internal procedures, too.

        • Sapienti

          The community shouldn’t respond to allegations. It should respond to facts. The victims should report their allegations to the authorities not some pagan group.

          If the perp is convicted then the community reacts. Creating an environment of rumor and allegations without facts will only lead to trouble.

          • Shauna Aura Knight

            It’s worth pointing out that for some types of abuse and harassment, we aren’t talking about things that will ever get a conviction. Things that may not be illegal even, but yet are not appropriate conduct at a festival.

          • Sapienti

            I understand that and if there is proof of the conduct they should be ejected from the event. Letting other people know about that is not a problem but acting simply on someones word is not acceptable. If you operate solely on accusations and rumor it is not better than gossip and you set yourself up to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            I’d be cautious about using terms like “proof,” because I agree with you, Sapienti, that we do not want local communities to be conducting kangaroo courts. Determining guilt or innocence is ultimately not a job we can do ourselves.

            I would also agree that rumor–as in second and third-hand reports–is not a useful standard. By and large, festivals and organizations need to hear specific reports from the parties directly involved.

            But at that point, if the information seems credible, the organizers may very well need to make a decision and act to ban someone from a community–or, if the situation is less clear-cut or less threatening, to set clear limits on their behavior there.

            We will not always get it right. Feelings will likely be hurt in the process, and, what’s worse, protection won’t always be given appropriately when it should be. But “proof” is not something we’re going to get. We will need to act, soberly and thoughtfully, based only on credible first-hand reports and conversations with the parties involved. It’s just the best we can do.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Are you suggesting there should be no monitoring or tracking of attendees or leaders until and unless there has been a conviction? I think recent cases in our community suggest that could take too long.

            Communities need not to make public statements of guilt or innocence without a conviction. I’ll agree with that. It’s not our place to evaluate those matters.

            However, even setting aside the sadly low rate of conviction for sexual offenses and the delay in courts reaching a verdict (how many additional victims can a perpetrator find in 2–3 years?) I believe there is actually very important work to be done by local communities, even without the allegation of a crime.

            For instance, I think it’s appropriate for a community to respond to situations that do not yet rise to the level of a crime. Those who sexually abuse children and teens often begin with “grooming behavior”–trying to get kids alone, offering them alcohol, showing them pornographic pictures, hugging them just a little too lingeringly or too often… With the possible exception of serving alcohol to a minor, these are not criminal acts. But if a leader or a gathering attender has a pattern of such behaviors, the community may very well want to act on them by dis-inviting him or her from events, especially if children will be present. Leaders should also have a record of those individuals who have been subject to such allegations in the past, so that they can keep continuity in enforcing things like a ban on a problematic individual.

            Not every situation will call for a ban, just as not every situation will call for a police investigation. But there are some actions communities can take to _prevent_ crimes.

            We need to rely on legal authorities to do what only they can do: enforce the law. But we need to do ourselves what only we can do: keep an eye out for one another, and most especially for the safety of our kids.

          • Sapienti

            If you ban or restrict someone from an event then you are making a public statement about their guilt or innocence. If you have evidence then do it. If not then you shouldn’t.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            That first sentence is untrue. I was once a witness in a court case that upheld the right of a conference center director to eject someone based on the director’s take on the situation on the ground.

          • Sapienti

            How does that make what I said untrue. If you say that I think you did something wrong then you are saying that you did something wrong. This has nothing to do with a leaders right to do something. I’ve ejected people from a group that I witnessed stirring up trouble. You are comparing apples to oranges.

          • ELNIGMA

            If you’re a host, you have the right to tell unwanted guests to go away and not come back. You can deputize people to decide if they want to tell people to go away on your behalf, they can. If there’s someone who is abusing people, that may actually be part of your duty, especially anybody doing harm in a ritual setting

          • Sapienti

            Again, I didn’t say you couldn’t. If you boot someone you are publicly stating that they did something wrong.

        • ELNIGMA

          How hard is it to log “Problem with X, kick/banned”?

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Extremely hard, if you’re never notified of the incident. This happens to festival and event organizers more than you might think. Sometimes the reason leadership does not respond to a complaint is that the complaint was never made… to them.

            That’s why there needs to be some internal process for complaints in addition to whatever else is in place.

          • ELNIGMA

            having a third party in whose job is to report, but might not see their job as reporters – won’t help

    • Gabriel

      Eran, what happens when it’s the clergy doing the abusing? This is a problem every group of humans that come together for whatever reason run into. One or two people in a very influential and authoritative role over everyone else. That is generally when the abuse occurs because it is easy to manipulate that relationship. This council is not attempting to work in lieu of, or apart from law enforcment. Instead we will work hand in hand with them to help anyway we can. We want to shine a light on this problem and it seems we have at least suceeded in doing that :)

    • Shauna Aura Knight

      What Gabriel said. Sometimes it’s the clergy or the festival organizer or another person in power who is the problem. Or, maybe the festival organizers don’t listen to you when you bring them a complaint about someone’s behavior. People need a resource that they can at least go to for help.

  • Michael A Manor

    As the organizer of an adult event, we are taking this issue extremely seriously and will be offering a daily program – required to be attended by everyone at least once – that concerns rules for hooking up. These are seven simple rules: 1. No means no, 2. Yes only means yes until it becomes no – whenever it becomes no, 3. Please use either the “Don’t ask” or “Hook up” board to express your interests [these boards provide organizers and hosts the added benefit of being able to track who is expressing interest in whom in the event something untoward occurs], 4. Define your interests clearly and concisely, 5. Answer “Hookup Requests” with “Yes,” “No,” or “Let’s Talk,” 6. Ask Admin. or Security for help if you need it, and 7. For this event, consent may only be granted by those able to give it, i.e., Adult, of sound mind & body, and not presently under the influence of any intoxicating substance. We realize that this isn’t a perfect list and may be lacking in sensitivity in some regards, but the goal is to make everyone as safe as possible and also as comfortable. It’s a practical and pro-active way of getting things done.