Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 1 2
Results 11 to 17 of 17

Thread: Abuse of trust & authority for sexual favours

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    546
    I'm sorry to hear about that Varia, they took advantage of your position as a student, and also a physical disadvantage of your sickness. I hope you found support you needed at the time.

    There are a few problems with 'quietly discussion' amidst leaders.

    In many cases, were the situation not within a coven, perpetrators would face public or even criminal prosecution. I am speaking of other institutions; schools, jobs, churches. We have all seen the news articles about those accused of sexual harassment and abuse in these situations. Is this because of Wicca's preference for anonymity?

    It prevents the community from supporting victims and preventing problems. If only the leaders know about it, discussing it only amidst themselves, how can other students and coven members do anything about it? The community needs to be given the ability to regulate itself, and empowered to push out predators.

    In paganism the line between leader, student, and teacher are more blurred than in other situations. 'quietly among leaders' does not work without an established and official leadership, which Paganism and Wicca pride itself in not having.

    The Catholic Church decided to quietly regulate and deal with sexual misconduct amongst its leaders... just saying.

    Yes, slander is a concern. But, if you do not trust your community to support and protect you, you should not let yourself be a part of that community. That's what a community is, not a group of people just taking the same oaths and following the same bylaws, the idea is that they will support and protect one another.

    Coven stricter defiantly has a lot to do with it. The problem I had was within a loosely structured sort of 'impromptu' coven... however, I felt safe because they were people I had already known. A coven I have been talking with recently defiantly try's to get to know you or get a feel for you before allowing anyone to neophyte. It felt a lot safer, but I have heard the stories where abuse happened in these types of covens as well. It depends I guess.

    Gatherings are harder, but if there is a distinction in the wider community about what type of behavior is acceptable it's members be empowered to step up when they notice something 'strange' happening.

    I'm must curious... can a mod help me out? Has there ever been a situation here on MW? What if there was? As an internet community there is a limited amount that can be done, but I assume everything that could be done would be. Banning, and cooperating with authorities if criminal charges were involved; anything else?

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    816
    Varia - I'm sorry to hear about your experiences too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eyeris View Post
    In many cases, were the situation not within a coven, perpetrators would face public or even criminal prosecution. I am speaking of other institutions; schools, jobs, churches. We have all seen the news articles about those accused of sexual harassment and abuse in these situations. Is this because of Wicca's preference for anonymity?
    I think it's more complicated than that. In the cases you talk about, we see news stories about it because some kind of public (and generally legal) complaint has been brought. I've certainly seen that happen in Pagan contexts, but it's at the level of "charges filed", not "individual mentions a problem"

    The problem is that, of course, that isn't the only kind of problem. Someone might make sexually charged comments that make a student or group member uncomfortable, but that aren't actually illegal. They might offer a relationship or sexual interaction that another adult does not want, but feels uncomfortable declining. For some people, coming from a religion that is very sexually restrictive to one where sexual topics are more openly discussed in general terms (or things like people being openly GLBT, in openly non-monogamous relationships, etc.) can be startling and upsetting, so an open offer might feel a lot more uncomfortable to someone that was actually meant.

    None of these things is necessarily a legal issue - and many cases of them shouldn't be.

    There's also the problem that while sometimes, the problem event is very clear cut - someone makes an unwanted pass, does not take no for an answer or applies other obvious pressure (or takes action) is pretty easy to deal with legally or in other ways by a group.

    But I think it's more common for situations to take time to build. I've seen a few, and heard of a number more situations where someone progresses into more and more inappropriate behavior, but it takes a while to show up. (A few not-the-most-appropriate comments here, a few more there, a few things that could be read as fine in some cases, but that make a couple of people in the group feel a little creeped out, but that are hard to pin down and then - maybe months after the pattern started - some more obvious action that needs action.) And sometimes it's just social awkwardness, or two people's social awkwardness rubbing each other exactly the wrong way, or at least that's part of it.

    Because of these complexities, my take on it is that someone with a concern that's sort of nebulous (i.e. not something obviously illegal) should *start* with the group leadership. They need information to make decisions about the group as a whole. (An individual may, of course, decide not to attend group events until things are resolved, and of course should consider reporting anything that is legally actionable to the police or other appropriate professionals as well.)

    It may take some time for the group leadership to figure out what's going on - as noted, some things may be a case of different expectations/backgrounds, social awkwardness/etc. that can be resolved in other ways to everyone's satisfaction. I've seen these questions go in the "Hi, someone in the group has expressed some discomfort with X in conversations with Y. Do you have any experiences you'd like us to be aware of while we work to resolve this issue?" That's opening up conversation without prejudging too much, and leaves resolution open.

    Of course, I also believe that groups should be clear and up front about their policies, but sometimes groups (and especially bootstrap groups who haven't had a chance to learn directly by helping in other groups) may miss things that would have been helpful to think about earlier in the process.

    (Me, I go for the flat out "if you are teaching someone toward initiation, you should not also be romantically or sexually involved with them." - existing partners should work with another teacher if at all possible, and any romantic or sexual interest between a student and teacher should wait for initiation, the student to decide they don't want to continue in their study, or for the teacher to find someone else to take on the teaching role. Relationships after initiation are a lot more flexible.)

    Anyway, once a group leadership has had a chance to investigate/talk to the relevant people/etc. then I think it's good for the rest of the group to have a chance to get or share any relevant information, ask for feedback, etc. But it's step 2, not step 1.

    Within the larger community, it's more complicated. There *are* possible legal consequences around slander and libel for representing someone's actions in a way that affects their business or social connections if they're not true - but it can be really hard to demonstrate 'truth', and so - barring legal action - I think it's appropriate for group leaders or individuals to be a bit cautious in what they say. What most group leaders will do is something like "X was asked to leave the group." and only be more specific if directly asked.

    (This is part of why many groups have a "Who have you worked with previously." question as part of their getting-to-know process: lying on it and leaving out a group with problems would be an automatic "Wait, stop, let's sort this out" if it came up later, and chances are it probably would eventually.)

    But the reality is that any larger-scale registry of people who might be problematic hits legal issues, may be inaccurate (because people do end up in major disagreements over all sorts of stuff, and someone might end up targetted on such lists because of it - I've certainly seen that happen), and doesn't necessarily help all that much anyway: the people who most need an additional source of info (new seekers) probably won't know to look for it *anyway*.

    I'm must curious... can a mod help me out? Has there ever been a situation here on MW? What if there was? As an internet community there is a limited amount that can be done, but I assume everything that could be done would be. Banning, and cooperating with authorities if criminal charges were involved; anything else?
    I don't have experience with it from here, but I did do Terms of Service volunteer work for LiveJournal.com for a while (back in 03-04), where issues of this kind sometimes came up. (That was a very large site - millions of accounts).

    Basically, the site approach is one I think is generally pretty viable: what site admins can act on is activity and behavior on their site. They can't enforce the law, they can't require reporting, they shouldn't do conflict resolution. They can't figure out what 'the truth' is.

    What they can do is respond to legal documentation (such as making it clear that violating a no-contact order on their site is grounds for immediate banning). They can explain and provide whatever tools to individual users allow them to limit access with a problematic person. And of course, they can ban and take other admin action based on violations of the site's policies and cooperate with legal investigations once they've verified the request. (One of the things I learned at LiveJournal is that some - fortunately relatively few - people will lie about a wide variety of things - including being a police officer - in order to get other people in trouble, so often things like a verification step are important.)

    But if they start taking action based on offline behavior, that gets very iffy indeed (again, barring something like a court order limiting online access in some way) and can get the site in all kinds of other trouble (both for actions they take, and if they don't take actions for other comparable cases down the road.)

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    NJ, USA
    Age
    45
    Posts
    21,177
    Why does it happen? Because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Why is it bad? Because we should protect the weak and needy, rather than abuse them, and we should treat others the way we wish to be treated ourselves.
    What can we do about it? Preventively: strong personal or coven-enforced code of conduct, preferably coven-corrected, combined with a prolific assertiveness, taught if need be prior to religious training. Accusitory: formal abuse complaint with the police. Correctively: public slander of the perp and protection/council for the victim.

    Reality check: if your coven leader is monopolising anyone's sexuality, get the hell out.
    Xentor, your friendly-neighbourhood Checkerist
    Contact me | The Dialogues on Checkerism

    I run the @anonywicks accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Pagans present!

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Southeastern US
    Posts
    1,735
    Quote Originally Posted by Proteus View Post

    1) Why and how does this keep happening when its a culturally unacceptable phenomenon nowadays?

    2) Why is it so awful ? (for those reading who might wonder what the fuss is about)

    3) What kind of things would need to happen to change it?


    4) How best can people who have been through this kind of thing be supported?
    It happens because humans are hungry, horny, insecure animals.

    It's awful...because it causes people to become MORE insecure, thus perpetuating all manner of F'd up behavior.

    It aint gonna change, there will always be predators, and prey. Ignorance and silence perpetuate this. If people are reminded that this stuff does happen and no one is immune to either abusing "power" or being abused, that is a good start. If people are encouraged to speak up when things start getting weird, the predators are less likely to find easy prey. Like when birds or monkeys alert others that the lions are around. Makes it darn hard for the lions to sneak up on anything.

    The best way to support one who's fallen into the unhealthy and abusive relationship is to NOT perpetuate silence, to help the person extricate themselves from the situation and to let the predator and everyone else know how majorly uncool and unacceptable this behavior is.

    It can be a sticky issue in pagan circles, cause (ducks the inevitable flotsam thrown my way for saying this) but there still are people who get into "paganism" as an excuse to justify all manner of questionable behavior. Some people use their "religion" as a blind for use of sex, drugs, etc in an irresponsible and abusive manner. There are people who get into it for fun or as a mean of rebellion, who think they are outsmarting the system, only to find, a few years down the line that THEY became victims of the subculture they believed would provide a safe haven.

    Denial. Sometimes we use denial against ourselves.
    In a love affair with sunshine

    Live this day like an altar to what you believe

  5. #15
    memnoch's Avatar
     is offline SEXY conservative asshole with a heart
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Ohio
    Age
    39
    Posts
    15,429
    I can only answer two of these, and I've not seen the answer from others. It seems there are many who believe it is the power that corrupts and "makes" the person do this. They have it backwards. The people who do this are people who want to do this and they find a way to do it. Jim Jeffers wasn't a great guy who was corrupted by power, he was a pedophile who found a way to access young girls.

    How to change it. The only real way to change it is through education, keeping people, and their children, out of said situations. Unfortunately we will never be able to do this with 100% effectiveness, all we can do is do our best.
    There is no genuine justice in any scheme of feeding and coddling the loafer whose only ponderable energies are devoted wholly to reproduction. Nine-tenths of the rights he bellows for are really privileges and he does nothing to deserve them. H.L. Mencken

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    NW Arkansas
    Posts
    377
    Quote Originally Posted by Proteus View Post
    Was starting to write about this in the Community Experiences thread but I thought this requires a thread all its own.

    A phenomenon I've seen many times in many different types of supposedly spiritually-centered groups is this: An older man in a position of power, often the head of a group and considered spiritually "advanced", uses that position to try to seduce and/or coerce young women into sleeping with him. Often there is an unspoken but understood threat of exile if they reject his advances.

    I'm sure there are instances of women doing it too but I've not seen or experienced that myself. I've heard of a lot of men doing it through.

    I wanted to throw open some questions for discussion about this itt:-

    1) Why and how does this keep happening when its a culturally unacceptable phenomenon nowadays?
    My response is not based on personal experience.

    This is a subject that is close to my heart, because I believe that religious Witchcraft is sexual at its very core; therefore, abuse of sex in a ritual or group context deeply profanes the path for those who are touched by it.

    We, in America, are creatures of a sexually schizophrenic culture. Sex is alternately damned and pedestalized, and both are expressions of the same attitude. Both trivialize and caricature sex, warping and diminishing it rather than allowing it to be integrated into life as a whole. Why? Fear.

    People who manipulate others to get sex are still operating under this delusion. They still see sex as a commodity to be possessed rather than as an expression of self to be shared with others. Some of this is a, not inevitable, but understandable part of the process of emerging from the distorted sexual mindset inherited from the culture we were raised in. Some of it comes from people who are attracted to paganism because of the free-wheeling sexual libertinism they expect to find there, people who are not interested in spiritual pathworking at all.

    One of the saddest aspects of this phenomenon is that it tends to reinforce the prejudice against incorporating sexual ritual into worship, which thus -- to my mind -- deprives Witchcraft of a great deal of power for spiritual transformation.

    I haven't given it a great deal of thought, but I suspect one of the best ways of avoiding being manipulated is to have a solid foundation of personal relationship with your patron or patrons. If your spirituality is on a sound personal footing -- rather than being dependent on your association with a group -- then your spiritual expression within the group will be an expression of what you bring to the group from the richness of your personal spiritual life. Goddess energy is erotic -- in every sense -- and eros seeks expression. If someone brings that energy into a group, they are not being used but making an offering. That's very different from exchanging sex for specific privileges or keys.

    Sexual initiation, which is something I favor strongly, is particularly vulnerable to the sort of abuse being discussed here. It is my impression that, nowadays, when a teacher incorporates sex with a student as part of their initiation, people tend to assume that it's abusive -- guilty until proven innocent. I think that's regrettable, because of the energies brought to such an event by the teacher; but that's the way people seem to see it, and you have to deal with that. One possible solution is to mentor people in pairs or balanced groups in which the students are paired up for initiation; this avoids predation by the teacher, unless its purely voyeuristic.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Posts
    61
    Quote Originally Posted by Proteus View Post
    1) Why and how does this keep happening when its a culturally unacceptable phenomenon nowadays?
    Because it tends to happen in secret or at least away from the knowledge of people who can or will actively put a stop to it. And, frankly, there's no law against it. So long as no one is being physically forced or manipulated in any demonstrable-in-court ways, there's no law against being really persuasive or a jerk who knows how to talk.

    2) Why is it so awful ? (for those reading who might wonder what the fuss is about)
    Generally because it represents an abuse of power and authority a person has been entrusted with and a violation of the true free will of the other individuals involved. Curbing or trying to curtail someone's free will is a HUGE no-no in the Pagan community and the rest of the world isnt much different.

    3) What kind of things would need to happen to change it?
    Dissolve the group. Attacking the leader directly, depending how devoted his followers are, often backfires because it reinforces the "us vs them" mentality leaders of devoted groups tend to foster as a way to create unity. Logic is also generally ineffective as the leader can often use emotive language to simply bypass logical arguments and pull people's heartstrings.

    Deposing or demoting the leader is an option, but that's often very difficult especially if they're entrenched and have followers who support them.

    4) How best can people who have been through this kind of thing be supported?
    There are many resources on the internet that can direct you to groups and individuals who deal with this sort of thing on all levels. I suggest starting there.
    "There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses one still gets wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things."

Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 1 2

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •