Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Editorial - support a clear statement of Pagan ethics regarding sexual abuse

What I am about to say is an editorial coming from me - Greg Harder -your National PIO.  My suggestions are not official COG policy as yet, though I would urge us to strongly consider providing clear support for the following:

I agree with Jason Pitzl-Waters from The Wild Hunt blog  about the need for a clear and widely agreed to statement of Pagan ethics as it relates to sexual abuse - especially regarding children.  So I will quote him extensively here so that you may understand why I see this as an important issue for us in COG and the greater Pagan community.  He has a very important and influential Pagan blog, and I believe that we as an organization should be at the forefront of offering assistance and support for the effort he is describing.  I would urge our members to go to his site and read the complete post and the comments generated, and offer whatever assistance we can.  As of right now he already has 71 comments listed : the great majority supporting the general idea.  As your National PIO I cannot stress this enough for the safety and integrity of our community.  For Jason's complete statement look (here) and (here)

"I’m going to stray a bit from my normal routine, and propose an actual initiative for our community to undertake. Considering recent cases within our community concerning the sexual abuse of children, and the larger context of news-making abuse cases within non-Pagan faith intuitions, I feel that a voluntary statement of ethics put forward and enforced by Pagan leaders, groups, event organizers, media outlets, and organizations could go a long way towards fostering an atmosphere that would support victims, discourage would-be abusers, and potentially avert some cases of abuse. I understand that any undertaking that attempts to gain the support of any sizable percentage of the larger Pagan community can be fraught with drama, dissent, and backlash, but I feel this is something worth the effort, and the process will have The Wild Hunt’s support at every stage...

Back in December I reported on the arrest of Daniel Doherty, who was charged with raping and molesting a Washington woman from the ages of 11 to 19, telling her it was “pleasing the goddess” to endure his sexual assaults...

Since then, Doherty has pleaded guilty to the charges in a plea-deal, with hopes of a reduced sentence. However, Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock, citing the heinous abuses perpetrated, ignored the plea recommendations and tacked on additional time, less than a year shy of the allowed maximum...

Naturally, many in our wider community will want to stress that Doherty wasn’t a part of any established group, and that is true, he was by all accounts a drifter who clung to the edges of our community, but I also think that obscures the larger lesson to be learned here. A vast percentage of modern Pagans aren’t part of any established group, or are members of groups and traditions so small they hardly count as “established” on any national or even regional scale. This creates a culture where we tend to ascribe a certain amount of legitimacy to any individual practitioner as a common courtesy, which creates fertile grounds for those who want to abuse that trust. I’m not saying we should stop trusting, or that everyone should join a national organization if they want to be taken seriously, only that our decentralized nature makes us uniquely vulnerable to con-men and monsters.

What can we do about it? Along with a culture of love and trust, we also need to create a culture of responsibility and frankness about what will and will not be tolerated within our communities, and make in known to the wider world. A shared covenant of ethics for events and community functions that clearly states our vigilance and zero-tolerance towards any who would abuse the mind or body of a child (or advocate same).

An ethic that says that no real Pagan teacher or clergy will ever demand sex, especially from a minor, in exchange for initiation, or in “celebration” of anything. That if you are in a situation, either with an individual, or group, that makes you feel uncomfortable, or pushes your sexual boundaries, that it’s OK to get out and alert someone you trust (parent, relative, teacher). That if someone in our community, or claiming to be a part of our community, transgresses sexually, that’s it’s not only OK to alert law enforcement officials immediately, but strongly encouraged. That no oath is broken when a rapist or abuser is brought to justice. That no god or goddess requires the sacrifice of your mind, youth, or innocence to some supposed representative." ...(Cont.)...