Whose Community? Whose Reputation?
Many of us have been rejected by the larger culture- for our spiritual beliefs, for being GLBTQ, for being geeky or socially awkward. And we find a community where we feel accepted, so we feel we must accept everyone, no matter what they say or do. All too often putting the individual right to self-expression and unquestioned acceptance of bad behavior allows manipulative people the ability to trample the rights of other individuals with less power- like children.
Many accusations of abuse have come forth since Klein’s arrest. There have been attempts to silence the accusers with cries of “what about innocent until proven guilty?!”. Yes, that is how our legal system works. But there is the court of public opinion and there is the court of law- sometimes an individual gets more justice in the court of public opinion than they do under the law. Other times, they get more justice from the law, but unfair treatment from the public. Crimes must be proven “beyond a shadow of a doubt”. When it comes to the safety of our children, we can’t afford that burden of proof. The burden of potential abuse is much greater. And so, we need to take these accusations seriously, and act on them even if Klein or other people are not punished for crimes we suspect them of. I hope people do make formal reports on incidents they witnessed or experienced.
There are some people who will unfairly judge an entire minority group (or cluster of them) no matter what they do. It doesn’t matter if everyone who could be socially classified as “pagan” was entirely law-abiding, didn’t hurt a fly, and was as Properly Respectable as possible- there would still be some people who would judge us for not being Christian, or being religious in a deviant way. But if a community knowingly tolerates abuses for decades then, yes they do deserve a bad reputation.
The important thing is: what is your community? what is your spiritual tradition and what values does it teach you? Does your community share those values, both in words and action? If not, you might need to find a community who does- or create starting with yourself. This Lowest Common Denominator Pagan Community is not one I want to be a part of. And while I have not tolerated outright abuse, I have all too often allowed bad behavior to go on around me without objecting to it. All too often, I’ve just written it off as “oh, well what do you expect, they’re pagans.” Enough. This stops now.
Five Geek Social Fallacies (commonly “suffered” by many pagans, including those who don’t consider themselves geeks. I think they’re also Hippie Social Fallacies.
Geek Social Fallacies of Sex- a useful follow-up from another writer, specific to sexual mores among geeky communities
Predators in Paganism by T. Thorn Coyle
Genital Monologue by Helio Pires
Fish Rots From the Head Down by Lydia Crabtree
Evil Thrives on Secrecy by C.S. MacCath
Community Safety Guidelines by Ivy Vine & Sannion- suggestions written for the Polytheism Without Borders community. I think I’m going to start looking at by-laws and policies of various religious groups (obviously starting with ones I personally belong to) and other organizations, as well as research laws regarding abuse.