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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Pagans against sexual abuse

This is a page from the third version of Technopagan Yearnings. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at www.neowayland.com/C65989237/E20100518124242

A statement is close to the final version

Regular readers know I've been involved with the Statement Against Sexual Abuse. Author and professor Brendan Myers did the lion's share of the work and I think it turned out pretty well.

You can read the complete version at the link above. There's an ongoing public comment period for the next couple of weeks before it's final publication here at it's own website.

Here's the short version, intended for print distribution.

We are here –

– A circle of spiritual people from many traditions, groves, hearths, and circles. We are young and old, from many walks of life, and many parts of the world. We are Pagans of the modern era, Druids, Heathens, Wiccans, Witches, Shamans, practitioners of magical lore, and many more paths besides these. We walk the paths of the sacred Earth, in the footsteps of the Goddesses and Gods of the Land, the Sea, the Sky, and the Tribe.

2. We have learned of recent incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by individuals claiming to be religious teachers, some of whom claimed to be members of our community. In response to these incidents, we have crafted this statement.

3. We hereby categorically reject, disavow, oppose, and repudiate any and all coerced, nonconsensual, harmful or exploitative sexual acts, especially when claimed to be part of our ways and traditions. We identify all such acts as sexual abuse, and we refuse to tolerate them in our community.

4. Many of us believe the human body is profoundly sacred. Many of us believe that the presence of the Divine dwells within in the body. We therefore find that human sexuality, and acts of love and pleasure between consenting, informed, and mature people, have great religious significance. We affirm the goodness of human sexuality, and the goodness of celebrating sexual identity.

5. Because of these beliefs, we also find that coerced, nonconsensual, harmful or exploitative sexual acts are extraordinary affronts to the Divine presence which dwells within every human body. These acts grievously harm the victim, and inflict deep wounds upon the sense of bodily identity which all of us hold so dear.

6. A sexual predator who exploits the relationship of trust that exists between teacher and seeker harms the whole religious community, and undermines the good work of the honourable teachers in our midst. Similarly, acts of sexual abuse between seekers in the same circle, whether one party is a teacher or not, also harm the whole community.

7. An accusation of sexual exploitation is a very serious matter. The accusation alone, even in the absence of evidence, can damage the reputation and the self esteem of good people. We therefore find that a false or vindictive accusation of sexual misconduct is but another form of sexual abuse.

8. Yet we also recognize that real sexual abuse victims experience deep feelings of guilt and shame, and that they often struggle to admit that they have been abused. Their condition should not be made worse by a predisposition to doubt the validity of their claims. Nor should they be automatically counter-accused of having a vindictive intention, or of lying. We hold that anyone alleging sexual abuse should always be treated with compassion as a primary response, and that claims of sexual abuse should be handled with intelligence and concern for all.

9. We voluntarily commit ourselves to this declaration, and we encourage others to commit themselves to it, whatever their path.

I didn't take as strong a role as I could have, largely because of my own reputation. My libertarian politics offend some Pagans deeply, and my libertine ways set other's teeth on edge. Technically, this oversteps the purely libertarian line, but I thought that the benefit outweighed the consequences in this case. It's not the statement I would have written, but it is the statement that I think has the best chance of being accepted among Pagans. In the end, that is far more important than my ego.

As Jason Pitzl-Waters wrote on the comment entry at The Wild Hunt:

I also want to reiterate that the ethics site will remain politically neutral, and will not advocate for or against any tradition, group, or individual in a conflict. Signing the statement will be opt-in and voluntary. No group, individual, or legal entity will be strong-armed into participating, or demonized if they feel they can’t sign on to the finished product. Coalitions that bring lasting change aren’t built by guilt or coercion, but by bridge-building and compromise. We will gladly stand by and partner with those who opt to develop alternate faith or group-specific ethics platforms, so long as they are created in the same spirit of protecting the innocent. Further, the finished statement will exist as its own entity beholding to no single faith, group or individual, and anyone will be able to “sign” or “opt-in” to it at any time so long as they support its tenets.
It's strictly voluntary, there won't be a Pagan Ethics Squad flying around forcing people to conform "or else."

There is one part that I am responsible for, but for which I can't really accept credit. I've told you that I have no gift for divination. I do have the occasional flash of insight when I realize that something is NECESSARY. I get the near absolute certainty for the what without benefit of the who, when, where, or how. The knowledge literally pops into my head and I have no idea how it got there. That is why the statement recognizes that not all accusations are proof of abuse.

So I kept my promise, Daniel. A little late, but there it is.

There is one thing that I will take credit for, and it's a small thing. The word Divine as a personification is capitalized.

All in all it's a good work.

Posted: Tue - May 18, 2010 at 12:42 PM

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