Building Community to Prevent Abuse
Article ID: 9220
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,136
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Author: Crystal Blanton
Posted: May 8th. 2005
Times Viewed: 2,895
Lack of structure in the Pagan community has been a blessing and a curse. I have found a lot of freedom within our community to decide what is right for me but at what cost to the Pagan community at large? I ponder that question when I go to large Pagan circles, where I see the lack of education or guidance among some of the youth who don't understand that being a Witch has nothing to do with wearing black and where I see people who claim to be what they are not. It makes me think about the prices we pay for such freedoms. One of the downsides to having this type of freedom is the misinterpretations of what this belief system really stands for and the abuse that can follow.
Abuse comes in many different forms in every community. In my quest within Pagan society I have seen a lot of separatism, prejudice and abuse of authority, including false claims to levels of authority not yet earned, especially that of High Priest/Priestess.
For a religion that embraces many different paths, prejudice still enters this community. Some people feel that their tradition, or even their religion, is superior. This bias is frequently against Christianity as well. There are many judgments based on different perceptions of what people think a Pagan or Wiccan should be or do.
But more troublesome is the misrepresentation of Pagan leadership. And one of the down sides to a lack of formal structure is the lack of regulatory guidelines for clergy or Pagan leadership. Anyone can claim to be a High Priestess/Priest, teacher, spiritual counselor, etc, and there is no means of holding those individuals to guidelines that are acceptable within the Pagan community. Furthermore there is no way for anyone to find out if this person has earned the position they claim to hold. Many times individuals are put in a position where they must choose a spiritual leader or coven blindly with no means of looking into the qualifications of the leader or group.
Structure does not solve everything, and even religious traditions with structure still experience abuse, although some structure can provide a resource for people to go to when abuse occurs, or to check prior to getting involved with certain leaders or groups. That in itself might deter some of the current clergy abuse in the Pagan community.
I think many times abuse within our community is swept under the rug because there is no place where reports of abuse can be given. As a result many covens and groups disband within two years of working together and many people are pulled into abusive or unhealthy coven or leadership situations.
In order to deter and curb some of the abuse within our community we have to stop saying it is okay and shut the door to such abuse. We have to decide if being Pagan or Wiccan means no authority or regulations. We have to decide if giving up some of those freedoms we enjoy is worth it for the greater good.
As it stands today there is no agency or resource to which abuse by a Pagan or Wiccan leader can be reported. Let's stop for a minute and take that even a step further. Does that add to the separation and judgment within our community? There is no common thread that weaves the Pagan community at large together. There is no authority, no regulation, no real community at large. We are separated into our religion, tradition, coven, tribe, local community, family or as a solitary on this path.
So with no real sense of community, what are we working towards and who cares if abuse happens?
If I am operating in a small picture of my individual path without recognizing the interwoven threads that make up the community, then I am not focused on preventing or reporting abuse, separation and prejudice, nor am I focused on the community.
We Pagans must come together. We must take a stand. We must organize for the sake of the youngsters and people coming into this path looking for guidance and leadership amongst a sea of Pagans who may or may not have the knowledge they claim. We must do what we can to prevent these predators from thinking this is an open field for abuse, lies, deception or manipulation without repercussions. We have to care enough to do something.
Once we come together as a community we can organize a common resource to guide people on how to report abuse, and give them choices. Some cases of abuse are definitely worthy of legal reporting, such as physical and sexual matters.
In addition to creating a resource to support the reporting of abuse, we can also use this resource to educate the community at large on what abuse means and what to look for. It can also give information on how to get out of abusive situations with covens, groups or leaders if someone finds themselves already in an unhealthy position. We can then take this information and publish it in many different mediums to get the word out.
It is a fine line between creating support within the Pagan community and attempting to turn it into organized religion. I am not advocating organization of the Pagan religions, just looking at the underutilized power we have to regulate some of the serious abuse concerns within our community. We as Pagans need to come together and decide what level of involvement we want in creating a productive community.
In the end we have these expectations of Pagan clergy and leaders but nothing to back it up. We have these invisible lines that we don't want crossed but won't do the work to make the lines visible and enforceable. We want the benefits of being recognized as a legal religion or spiritual path but don't consider our community important enough to follow through with assisting in protecting it. If we don't take it seriously then who will? Do we expect others to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves?
I think the first step in protecting against abuse is to stand up and be heard, not only outside of the Pagan community but within our community by our own people. Once we stand up we need to stay standing. This isn't an issue with a quick fix or one that should just be the topic of the month. It is an issue that takes consistent passion and attention so that others can see how important it really is. The key word in preventing abuse is action. We need community building, education against abuse and guidelines against abusive or harmful behavior.
Location: Bay Area, California
Author's Profile: To learn more about Crystal Blanton - Click HERE
Bio: I am a 28-year-old Pagan mother, been married for six years and I am very close to my family and my parents. I work full-time in the drug and alcohol treatment field. I have been a practicing Pagan for about three
years. I consider myself to be an eclectic Wiccan/Pagan. I try not to limit or label myself. My passions in life are my family, enjoying a good book, learning what life has to offer, connecting with my spiritual self, giving back to my community and spending time with good friends.
Other Articles: Crystal Blanton has posted 4 additional articles- View them?
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