Quote for the Day: "Witches speak for those who cannot speak for themselves" - from Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
I receive a note today from a woman who wrote that her Pagan community had recently discovered a sexual predator in their midst. He abused several Pagan children before he was caught and jailed. I am told by her that the families are now in therapy and that the Pagan community involved had a meeting, which she felt was both effective and compassionate. She asked for my thoughts on this subject:
I wrote back:
SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN BY PAGANS:
I have a very strong opinions about protecting kids.
It's happened before - far too often.
You might want to ask Isaac Bonewitz about this. If I remember the story correctly it goes like this: A Druid abused a child in their group and then moved to a new town when he was finally caught abusing another child. (Why the parents in the original group didn't prosecute, I don't know). Isaac had given this man's new group there a very strong, specific warning about this creep. They cited "Perfect love and perfect trust" back to him. Idiots! So, because of their credulity and lack of judgment, the monster got another Pagan kid before he was finally stopped.
Make it Public!
a) This particular case must be made public as a warning to others
b) Strong, useful, fact filled statements must be made. Give info that other Covens can use to better protect their own.
c) The children's names must be protected of course, but I, personally, would name the Coven, the area, and give the man's name with a note stating that he has been arrested and accused.
d) "Just the facts, Mamn", let's not start a panic or a Witch Hunt.
As we found in the Catholic Priest Abuse scandal that once the abusers were named, more people came forward. There might be
a) Other children out there now who need therapy,
b) Other police who are following up on another cases who need this information, or
c) Other parents who now need to help their kids or go into therapy themselves.
Wake Up Call & Setting Standards:
The Pagan community needs a wake-up call in this regard. The sexual freedom that we espouse does not include irresponsible behavior in the age of Aids, or the abuse of partners. In particular, it does not support the abuse of children. Ever.
Enabling & Need for Therapy:
Those who were enabling this person are also in need of counseling.
a) His partner(s) and any kids he has, are also in need of serious counseling.
b) Those who were in the Circle with him probably need therapy. They must now be asking themselves why they didn't see this going on and how this guy got under their radar.
c) Most of all, the children. Both those who were abused and those who's friend's were hurt; they all desperately need help.
d) Please note: The witnesses to abuse are also victims of abuse. Just because he didn't touch one particular kid, doesn't mean they don't need help, too.
Re the kids: If a family of a victim can't afford counseling, then the Pagan community needs to step up and help provide it. Funds must be gathered for this purpose, if necessary. I don't give a damn what else is going on - this is now their highest priority. If not, then anything else this Pagan community is doing or has done is a lie.
We can't heal the victims or protect our kids if we are keeping secrets. So yes, let's start
a) start a dialog and warn other Pagan parents,
b) set an example of how to handle this,
c) suggest treatments & form support groups (like Spiral Steps for the parents of the kids who were hurt) and
d) put abusers on notice that this will not be tolerated in our Circles.
Abusers Know Who To Pick:
That point is key. Abusers know exactly where to go and which kids are vulnerable. Let's make sure that our kids aren't ever in a position to be singled out by these types.
Facts About Sex Offenders
Protecting Your Family
National Registry of Sexual Offenders - by State
Tolerance my Grandma!:
Let's loose this idea that Tolerance = anything goes. That's just an excuse for neediness and a cover up for the inability to deal with conflict. It shows, not a broad minded acceptance of differences, but a total lack of manners, common sense and self esteem.
Terry Pratchett writes that Witches have a "duty" to exercise judgment. He's right.
This "anything goes" mind set is an open invitation to every con artist and abuser in town. So let's set some serious standards for behavior, attach some fair consequences for violations, and stick to it. Seriously, our people can be so open minded that their brains leak out. So, let's show some judgment here, and not let every freak and creep have their way with us.
There is a difference between these two things:
judgment: The power of comparing and deciding. Understanding; good sense. An opinion or estimate based on facts, experience, logic, considered thought and perspective.
judgmental: To find fault. To exhibit criticism or censure; often without cause or solid evidence. To form opinions based on prejudice or hearsay.
We are so afraid of being seen as judgmental, that we fear to use good judgment.
If I read you right, more than one family and/or child is involved. In such a case, the entire Circle/community has been fooled by this guy. They now need to ask themselves how and why they were so vulnerable. This will help their feelings of helplessness and guilt, help them to heal from their rage, and protect their children better in future.
If you need more information on this, let me know. I have information on codependency, dysfunctional families, and how poor boundaries set the stage for abuse in these cases.
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you on this end. I feel very strongly about this issue and I will be happy to lend my name to any (reasonably worded) petition or public letter you might care to circulate. Such a letter needs to be strong and note the "We, the under signed" will not tolerate physical or sexual abuse in our Circles, and the we will report all cases of abuse to the proper authorities and make such cases known to the Pagan community at large.
I would also be happy to help formulate a general set of guidelines or public policy for Covens, et all. I can put you in touch with Pagan counselors and teachers, as well, who might be able to help.
Perhaps it's time to start a Abuser Information Page. Something that has reliable information on abuse and abusers and the signs of same. I'm not suggesting a list of names here, but a list of types with notes on what to look for and how to get help if parents suspect abuse.
Many people don't know the M.O. of abusers, and a list of same from a child protection agency might help.
Let's also ask some attorneys just what the law says in this matter re privacy & responsibility in issues of abuse. The protection of Priests and the issue of confidentiality has been greatly dented of late. We cannot assume that Pagan Priests and Priestesses have the same legal protection that Counselors have or that Priests once had, and this needs to be considered.
Speaking of legal issues, you know, when I was teaching high school, we had - by California law - 24 hours in which to report signs of abuse or suspected abuse or we could be held liable, as well. I feel the same way about anyone in a Circle, especially a Priest or Priestess. They might want to consider the legal ramifications of not reporting what they know. If they get sued because they closed their eyes to abuse, I for one, will not stand up and defend them. That goes for physical abuse and/or neglect, as well.
Again, I don't want to start a panic among the other parents in this area (we've all seen what happens in such cases). In cases like this, where an arrest has been made, I believe that one can begin the discussion and issue a warning, while noting that guilt has yet to be proved.
To quote Bobby Earl: "My job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable."
So, tell me how I can help, and I'm there.
Full Circle Events
Honor the Past, Celebrate the Present, Create the Future
I asked some contacts for feedback:
This just came in from a Pagan with an M.A. in Counseling:
I would add that there might be kids who were abused by this man and who have not yet talked about it. All kids who were exposed to him need to be assessed for the possibility of abuse, preferably by an experienced therapist. Pedophiles often abuse many, many children, not just a few. They may have already dealt with this.
You made a great point that kids who witness abuse or who know that their friends were abused will be hurt also, and that they all need support.
Particularly in case there are kids who have been abused who have not talked about it, all of the kids need to know that whenever they want to talk about it, there will be a supportive adult to talk to.
Kids/everyone heal in their own time.
Also, I would add that kids of any age are at risk (infants, toddlers, school age, teenagers). Sometimes, people don't think that kids of certain ages could be abused. I would hate for them not to consider the possibility of abuse due to a certain child's or teenagers age.
Also, let all kids know that it was not their fault.
I think it is wonderful that they have dealt with it reasonably well already.
and this came in from an old friend in Minnesota who is a very active and wise hearted Mom.
I've heard the people from the Jacob Wetterling Foundation speak.
They have a good common sense approach. They have quite a bit of good information on their site. The information in the For Kids section of their website is good for talking to any of the children involved or any children period. Even if you think your kids know this, it is a good idea to repeat it and repeat it often. If someone has gotten to them, they will have heard the opposite message from their abuser so saying again that they are special, have rights and it is NEVER their fault is important.
I can't remember the statistics exactly but the abuser is much more likely to be a family member or a trusted friend than a total stranger. Hell on wheels. I hope everyone in the group will be well long term.
All my best thoughts and wishes.
This came in from a good friend and a Pagan mom in our area:
Re Megan's Law:
My first thought is how sad it is that this happens. And my second is
that abuse is most often perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
I would be in support of a resource list and a signs and symptoms page
for parents so that they can recognize abuse. The signs are often
subtle. It may be useful to remember that Megans Law websites are now
up and people can check to see if a person suspected of abuse has done
it before (and gotten caught). I generally don't recommend it, but it
can be useful sometimes.
Note: Here is a Sex Offenders Registry, listed by state
I will also note that when you select a therapist, it must be a good fit
for both parties. If it doesn't feel right, find a new therapist and
try again. The person to whom you are baring your soul must be ok with
who you are which includes being pagan.. If they are not, it's not
going to be a positive experience nor will it assist in the healing process.
Otherwise, you've covered the stuff that I would and have gotten good
advise from others.
Another Pagan gal, a professional in the child care industry, wanted to know why this guy was left alone with any children who were not his own, assuming that happened. Where she works, two adults are with the children at all times. This is done to protect both the caregivers and the kids, and it's a good thought.
As a teacher, I had to keep my doors and the blinds up if I met with a student one-on-one. I had a concern of any kind, I made sure that another teacher was next door and readily available. Our concerns were more about gang related violence, but the men teachers also had to be careful working around nubile young women students. I suppose these days, the women teachers also have to be just as careful.