Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why we do not mention sexual predators by name

[This post was writtten for the April 2016 Heartstone Community Church's newsletter. The opinions expressed are my own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Hearthstone board (outside of my one-fifth vote). Any angry comments you would like to make should be left in the comment section.]

Recently, one of the local community organizations, WSLA, held an event where they talked about what women should do when they encounter and receive dubious sexual attention from people who are employing behaviors and tactics of sexual predators. The reaction to this seminar was disturbing in many ways.

On several occasions, I have written articles and blog posts about sexual misbehavior in the esoteric community. Typically, I speak out about esoteric leaders and teachers, who trade degree advancements in exchange for sexual favors. While I seldom name offenders by name, my audience generally know whom I am talking about, and what offenses they are committing.

And if I am being completely honest, I have written about sexual predators in the pagan, Wiccan, and occult communities so often that I always give a little Homer Simpsons scream whenever I realize that it is once more time for me to get up on my soapbox and rant at the moon about the sexual predators in the occult community. In my ideal perfected universe fantasy, I never have to write another one of those damn articles about being aware that some sexual behaviors are worrisome and quite possibly predatory. Unfortunately, that magical day when I never have to mention this subject ever again seems to be as far away in time as the birth of the first test-tube unicorn, and is in all likelihood decades and centuries beyond that particular magical event.

Given how often I write about the issue, I was glad to see someone else addressing the topic. And as a writer about such dubious matters, I could not help but notice the reaction to the seminar, a reaction that created that sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized that it is that once again time for me to address the issue.

What followed the seminar was screams of libel, slander, and fear-mongering. I was surprised when I opened up my email box and saw the exchange that was occurring in the comment section of one of the event’s announcement pages. Basically, the way I was reading the reactions, it seems that some attendees decided that because WSLA was presenting stories of misbehavior, but not naming names, that WSLA was simply making stuff up and trying to create strife and fear in the community.

Sigh. As someone who writes about such matters on occasion, I have a unique viewpoint about this subject. There are good reasons not to name names. For one thing, it helps protect the innocent, the victims. For another, often these events are the subject of legal matters—universally, the reaction of those of us who are in watchdog positions is to advise the victim to go to the proper legal authorities. While we can provide emotional support and the occasional hex, the uglier cases require legal action for justice to occur.

And if you want to see tall tales, insidious rumors, and bad blood, just name one of the predators without having multiple screenshots, and documented legal complaints. Predators, in the defense of their own “good name” fall all over themselves to talk about how the victims are making stuff up, how the victims invited the sexual attention, and how they secretly enjoyed it. Furthermore, predators will threaten legal actions, both against the victim and anyone who defends and supports the victim.

I will admit that this does lead to a problem where certain individuals should have been named long ago, so that further innocents are protected. But living in an imperfect world, we have to default to using the option that causes the least amount of grief for both the victims and the community in general. And just because we never publically named someone as a predator, it does not mean that we are making up stories to pursue an agenda of fear and scandal; it merely means that the wheels of justice has not caught up with the individual yet.

And I do understand why people do not like these stories. We like to think that as pagans and Wiccans, we are better than this—that our little section of humanity has risen above such petty nonsense, that we treat each other fairly when it comes to sexual matters. It is a nice myth; but it is untrue, for we are still humans in a human society. People in a position of power will often use their position to fulfill their sexual needs.

We also like to believe that our community would not cover up such matters and protect the predators—but as long as the predators can rain down bucket loads of grief on their victims and their support network, the best that we can do is to teach people about the warning signs, tell them how to proceed to deal with it using the law, provide emotional support (and the occasional hex) for the victims, and privately whisper a hint in the ear of anyone we see headed in the wrong direction. It is not perfect, but it is the best that we can do.

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