Friday, April 4, 2014

Creeps- a reminder about staying safe on your spiritual journey

For those of my readers who are Pagan, you may have heard that a rather well known author in the Pagan world was arrested on charges of child pornography.  Reactions to this news have been all over the place from "Oh my gods, I had no idea" to "I knew it" and everything in between.  Mine was a resigned sorrow. Predators can be found any type of group. I had read this author and rejected his writings because one segment gave me the creeps. His works are not the only ones I have rejected on the grounds that they made me feel uncomfortable, unclean or unsafe, so this is not new territory for me. I have learned that trusting my judgement when it comes to other people's works is best practice for me. You may feel differently, adn you are the best person to make that judgement.

I hadn't intended to write about this (especially given how busy and contentious my life has been lately), but I feel compelled to remind all of us, myself included, that we all need to put effort into staying safe while exploring our spirituality.  We cannot rely solely on event organizers or publishers to vet our "leaders" or teachers, we have to take an active role in staying safe.  I know I've touched on this subject before, so I will leave my short list here:

  • If you see or hear something that makes you suspect that someone is being abused in any fashion, please speak up. Silence helps predators and allows them to continue hurting other people. Contact law enforcement, people you trust or organizations like RAINN for advice. 
  • Trust your gut. If you find yourself unaccountably afraid of a person or situation, leave.
  • Don't be afraid to disagree with elders, leaders, community organizers, teachers and others in power. If they are honorable, they will acknowledge your feelings and work to either bring understanding or let you go with a blessing.
  • Buddy up when attending public events. It's much harder to convince two people to not say something about creepiness than it is to alienate and isolate a single victim.
  • Take everything you read on spirituality with  grain of salt.  If something rings false, advocates illegal acts, or seems too far fetched, get rid of it.
  • Bravely follow your heart, it rarely will lead you truly astray.
  • When attending events, ask the organizers about security and safety policies. If nobody has thought of this at an event, it might be a good one to skip.
  • If someone comes to you for help after witnessing abuse or being abused, please, please be supportive and open minded. Encourage them to contact the authorities and discourage secrecy.
There is no single, sure fire method for preventing abuse, but we can, together make a safer spiritual learning environment by paying attention, holding our leaders to high standards of behavior and rejecting secrecy, fear mongering, and power trips.  IF you have questions about getting involved in a group, or remaining involved in one, you might check out Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame to help you evaluate the health of that group.  Trust yourself, use both your head and your heart to evaluate relationships and groups, and never keep a secret that covers someone's bad behavior.  When in doubt, ask for help.

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