The Abuse Continues: An Update

By February 11, 2019 Community Issues No Comments

I have been putting off writing this update for months now. The fallout from my last two essays “So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse” and “For Sale: Paganism As Is” was so bad that, up until recently, I was more likely to delete my entire online presence and hide in a hole than to write a follow up piece. Now, people hate me for just existing and this was not the first time I had experienced a wave of hatred for my writing, but I was not prepared for the tsunami that came. The storm has calmed somewhat over the holidays though, so here goes nothing.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU SPEAK OUT AGAINST SEXUAL ABUSE

So, what happens when a woman writes an exposé piece on sexual abuse in her community including her own #metoo experiences? Here is what I learned first hand:

70% of strangers on the internet will believe you regardless of their gender or orientation and send you their support. This is pretty awesome. This is the only positive thing I have to report besides the Wiccan Church of Canada being the only Canadian group to issue a public statement against sexual abuse, Emma Kathryn of Gods & Radicals being the only journalist to publish an interview with me (despite four journalists contacting me), and Fire Lyte being the only Pagan podcaster who was willing tackle the issue of sexual abuse and interview me for Inciting a Riot. Thank you to them and all the other positive voices for keeping me sane when I was inundated with more hate mail and personal attacks than I have ever received in my life. Your private messages and emails meant a lot to me. You guys were my life raft and you rock!

Instead of finding any value or truth in your words, the remaining 30% of readers will find unrelated excuses to make personal attacks on you — even taking things you said in unrelated essays or interviews to slander you and discredit you to others. I wrote an earlier blog post about my struggles with anxiety and depression and it is the main source of ammo haters have tried to use against me. Never mind that statistically 20% of the N. American population suffers from a mental illness of some kind and never mind that maybe I have these mental health issues in the first place because of the trauma I have experienced, duh. I have two therapists and am on medication currently, so I’m actively working on my mental health. Can’t say the same for all the people who sent me hate mail! It’s not like there’s a treatment for narcissistic personality disorder anyway…

It is Murphy’s Law that this 30% of haters will also be more vocal than the 70% who support you and go out of their way to comment on social media platforms and email you to be sure you know how wrong you are and how much they hate you. I don’t read these messages. I just identify them as hateful and delete them or block them. It is not worth my time or health to read them no matter what they might say. Don’t do it.

The biggest shock to me was that of all your friends and acquaintances, women will be the least likely to support you or believe you when you come forward –no matter how well you know them. No matter how much they may say they support you, women are also the least likely to do anything about it –not even publicly supporting you or unfriending an abuser on facebook. Some of your female friends will walk through fire with you and you should keep those ones close and keep up communication when you are upset. Some men will be super misogynistic in response because it makes them super uncomfortable, but the natural reaction of a reasonable man is protectiveness, support and righteous anger. Know who has your back.

Women, whether you know them IRL or not, are the ones who will attack you the most viciously for speaking out – directly with nasty comments and indirectly by attacking you through your friends or livelihood. These women take your words as a personal attack either because they have been assaulted and your coming forward has genuinely triggered them, or because they themselves are abusers with something to hide. Others are just your average sociopathic trolls whose only sense of pleasure comes from drama and hurting people. Report, block, delete.

Women, whether you know them IRL or not, are the ones who first come to the defense of any man accused of sexual abuse or assualt regardless of whether they know the man well or not. It doesn’t even matter if they know the man, even his own wife may not know that their husband is a predator… just not with them.

Women are the ones who will most quickly defend the inappropriate and outdated beliefs and behaviours within neopaganism that lead to gender inequality and sexual assault.

After them, it is the men in positions of power in the neopagan community as teachers and leaders who will defend the practices and inappropriate behaviours that continue to lead to sexual assault.

Pagan groups with a male majority and male leadership were more likely to defend their members accused of sexual assault and forcibly remove members who disagreed with this choice (read that as women who disagreed). Groups that had more balanced gender equality were more likely to remove the accused man from their position of power and issue a public statement apologizing for the accused’s behaviour and stating a zero tolerance policy for abuse.

I learned that men are not the problem here. Humans are the problem. I learned everyone is equally the problem no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Anyone can be an abuser. Anyone. Anyone can support and protect abusers and allow their harmful behaviour to continue. Anyone. Anyone can be a victim of abuse no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation or level of attractiveness. Anyone.

My sexual abuse article was banned from multiple Facebook pagan groups because it presented this fact and people reported it to the admins as “too scary”. I kid you not.

How It Affected Me Personally

A constant stream of hate mail was sent to me via blog comments, social media, and email. People even slandered me on their own social media accounts and encouraged their followers to join in on the hate-a-thon. Men told me I was dumb and it was my fault for dating soooo many abusers. Apparently I should’ve known better or I should’ve just magically known they were abusive. According to them, it was all my fault, not the fault of the men who raped me or verbally and emotionally abused me. I only dated two abusive men, thanks, and you would know that if you’d actually read the whole article instead of skimming it and assuming the worst of me. Others tried to come up with excuses or defend the abusers instead. One woman actually told me that men were the incarnation of the Horned God on earth and how dare I say such things when I should be worshipping the ground they walk on. Yeah, for real. She said that. Pretty much all of the negative reactions to my article were horrifying. I really got to see the worst of humanity and the fallibility of long-time leaders in the Canadian neopagan community.

Some of men I accused went as far as emailing their victims to ask for their help in clearing their name. Of course the answer was no. Some of the accused and their significant others even emailed my friends to see if they could dig up any dirt on me or get them to speak against me. Too bad for them I’m a pretty boring person in real life and there was nothing to dig up because I’m not a sociopathic a-hole.

My abusive ex sent me a $200 cease and desist letter from a defamation lawyer accusing me of lying with malicious intent and threatening to take me for everything I had if I didn’t delete my essay on sexual abuse, my related social media posts, and make a written promise to never write or speak of him again. Luckily it wasn’t my first rodeo and I know that my ex is broke and a cross-province defamation suit would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with all the money going to his lawyer at the end. Translation: I knew the letter was the only action that would be taken so I responded saying I was not lying and would not meet any of the demands and if I did not hear back by a certain day and time I would consider the contents of their letter null and void. Nothing came of it. It was just a threat.

Someone reported my business to my e-commerce host and I lost my credit card payment gateway, but not my shop. FYI, it never says so in any of the terms of use policies, but if you use an e-commerce host that uses Square or Stripe to process credit cards –you cannot sell herbal products, natural health products, or even cosmetics with their service. If they find out you are, they can take away their service without warning and there is nothing you can do or say.

Just losing my credit card processor wasn’t good enough though, so someone reported my business using a form that is mainly relegated to reporting illegal activity like the sale of weapons or child pornography. My e-commerce host informed me they were completely terminating my account but did not tell me why and they do not share the emails of people who report you. This is when I lost medicinalnightshades.com in November 2018. I spent so much time and energy creating that website, I was crushed. I tried to contact support via email, chat, and phone, but was unsuccessful at receiving a response until two months later when they informed me they terminated my account under the grounds that I was shipping within Canada, which I was doing under a legal loophole in Health Canada regulations, but they didn’t care.

That still wasn’t enough so someone went on to report my business to Health Canada themselves. Health Canada asked me to stop selling and shipping within Canada but that otherwise everything was kosher and I could keep exporting until they had approved my petitions for registering my products (which will take years and a lot of money, sorry folks). It was scary to have Canada’s FDA threatening to come to my house and shut me down because someone hated me that much.

Who would go this far to attack me personally? The significant others of the men I accused of sexual assault. The women.

One even went as far as hacking my facebook account, my facebook messenger, and my friends’ facebook messenger accounts. Then they bragged about it on their own profile so I took a screenshot and filed a police report or harassment and invasion of personal privacy because, surprise, they are illegal.

I also called the police and asked how I would go about reporting marital rape, they were very kind but did not have good news for me. They told me that it has to be reported to the police in jurisdiction where the assault took place and that pursuing my assault in Washington State would not go anywhere because neither party was ever a resident, and as for the other times –that an inter-provincial marital rape case was rare and also incredibly unlikely to have results. There are non-profit organizations that can help women who have suffered, but our legal system doesn’t really have a policy or structure in place for dealing with marital rape. It’s still considered a grey area and the statistics for domestic abuse are still startlingly high in North America.

There is a system in place for abuse and assault though. If your sexual assault happened where you currently live, you are more likely to get justice. What does justice look like? Filing a police report, being interviewed by the police, the accused receiving notice to appear in court, a lengthy court case with a lot of paperwork, and the possible outcome of jail time for the accused. You may be able to get a restraining order and a no contact order from a judge to protect yourself. Even if they do not go to jail, just having threats, abuse, or assault on their criminal record is an important step to protecting yourself from them and helping to prevent it from happening to others. If someone commits the crime of assault more than once, they receive a harsher penalty each time. If you have the courage and tenacity, go for it. If you think it would make things worse for you and hurt you further, then it is your choice not to file a police report and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Otherwise the personal results of publishing my article on sexual abuse led to worsened depression and lots of weeping sessions as it seemed like every day some new terrible thing happened as a result of my words. Just feeling the sorrow and letting it all out is the best thing to do somethings. Cry in the moment. Emotions change and things get better eventually.

THE AFTERMATH

Samuel Wagar, The University of Alberta, and Pagan Patheos

One of the men I accused in my essay commented on the article without having read it in its entirety first so I outed him in my reply to his comment. His name is Samuel Wagar or sometimes Sam Wagar. Of all the people accused of predatory behaviour, this man is the most dangerous and has committed the most offences. After I outed him in the comments, Canadian women started to email me with stories of how he had assaulted or raped them under the guise of teaching them a sexualized form of Wicca. He told them classic high priest lines like “I can only initiate you if you have sex with me” and “I have to touch you for this part of the ritual or I can’t work with you anymore.” The majority of these women were underage or had just turned the age of majority when the incidents occurred. Samuel Wagar is currently age 63. In his comment on my blog post he claimed that all of these accusations are from “so long ago”. While many of the reported assaults are from 15-20 years ago when Sam was in his fourties, the women he targeted were half his age or less and the last reported incident of assault was from a university student in 2018. The reported incidents either occurred at the local pagan festival or alone in Sam’s home under the guise of teaching Wicca 101 to young women at night.

Even men who knew him emailed me to tell me he always gave them the creeps and kept trying to teach an overly sex-focused form of Wicca to anyone who would listen. His published writings and the teachings of his initiates and former coven mates such as Sable Aradia reflect this hyper focus on conflating sex with religion. At the time I published my article on sexual abuse, Sam was a volunteer Wiccan chaplain at the University of Alberta and also a volunteer mental health counselor there for vulnerable youth, but had already been removed from the leadership position in his Edmonton Wiccan group over inappropriate behaviour.

One student of the University of Alberta reported him for groping her during a Wiccan ritual and a police investigation was opened to look into the incident. Unfortunately no other students came forward, the police investigation was closed, and Sam was quietly asked to leave his volunteer positions by the university and not so quietly asked to remove himself from all his Wiccan groups in Edmonton (which he claimed to have left of his own volition on his social media but members of these groups emailed me and said otherwise). He is still present at the university, however, because he is a student there. Two editors from the student newspaper contacted me and interviewed me for a story about Sam. A story that was never published. I reached out to a CBC writer who had previously published an article on Sam in a good light and he replied to me eager to do something about it. Unfortunately he was no longer a writer and so tried to convince others at the CBC to take on the story. He was unsuccessful.

Before I published my article, I only knew of three women he had assaulted and him being a member of three different Canadian pagan communities. I couldn’t report him to the police myself because when I first entered my pagan community a kind friend warned me to avoid him and I listened (she had dated him). After my article was published the victim count went past a dozen women that I was aware of and I learned he had moved through at least five different pagan communities in Canada with the same modus operandi in Toronto, Vancouver Island, the greater Vancouver area, the Okanagan, and now Edmonton. It is my fear that he will simply move on to another town and form a new group taking on students and start his habit all over again.

Did you know Sam has a Patheos blog? One of the people who helps organize the Pagan Patheos portal sent me a message saying they had read my article and realized one of the sexual predators I named was one of Patheo’s pagan bloggers. They said they believed me and supported me and that they and one other were discussing what actions to take which would most likely be taking away Sam’s blog and preparing a public statement. Weeks went by and nothing happened, no statement was made about it, and his blog was still up so I asked what the deal was. I received reasons of busy-ness but no update, so I continued to prod further until I was curtly told that they took away Sam’s ability to publish new posts but that otherwise nothing else would be done and that they were not a news site and would make no comment or statement “due to legal complications”. Despite this inaction, the independent pagan bloggers on Patheos certainly did not have the same issues or fears as their unofficial management and many continued the discussion on sexual abuse after my article was published. Because of them, I continue to read new Patheos blog posts, but I was so disappointed I have stopped reading or sharing anything by the two men who sat and did nothing after initially saying they would. I will not out them here because they didn’t do anything wrong other than misrepresent themselves to me and be cowardly which is all too easy to be on the internet.

Why didn’t the police investigation of Sam go anywhere? Why wasn’t he removed from the university? Why weren’t any news articles or statements ever published? Of all the women who came to me with their stories of assault, only the one university student came forward to the authorities. Because of this, the police would not pursue the investigation further. Let me state that more clearly: because only one victim came forward, nothing happened. Statistically the police in Canada do not seek convictions on single reports of assault, especially not minor assault, but when 2-3 women come forward about the same man they consistently take action. I posted public notices asking anyone with information to come forward to the media or the authorities. I emailed the women who confessed to me and asked if any would be willing to come forward to police or the media. The majority didn’t respond to me at all and those who did said there is no way they would; that they were still too scared and traumatized. I left them alone after that as I already felt guilty enough asking these women to do something that would traumatize them more. I knew first hand what would happen to them, the hate mail and the personal attacks, and I didn’t blame them. I know Sam as a sad, weak, awkward, lying old narcissist whose only power and magical lineage is what he invents for himself, but they still saw him as the man in a position of power who hurt them and could still hurt them and a police investigation and a legal trial is far more traumatizing to the victim than the accused. I do not have permission to publish or share any of the emails or messages I received from Sam’s victims, but I hope that if he tries to come after me for defamation (especially after this), that his victims will come to my aid.

Technically nothing happened to Samuel Wagar other than a brief police scare for him and a slap on the wrist. What can we do to make sure he doesn’t hurt another woman? Tell everyone in our spiritual communities about Samuel Wagar and his penchant for younger women as well as his habit of moving to a new community when he is outed or things don’t go his way. We can bar him from our pagan festivals, conferences, pagan pride days, and other events as well as protest if an event hires him as a speaker. Don’t read his articles, don’t buy his books, don’t support his funding campaigns to set up groups. We can make him unwelcome and not be afraid to out him at every opportunity. Lastly, we shouldn’t forget about him as that is what predators and narcissists like Sam depend on.

The Wild Hunt

The then managing editor of The Wild Hunt, Heather Greene, who had published positive articles about some of the accused predators in the past, emailed to inform me they were going to do a report on my story in their next community notes and then a longer report and asked me for a brief comment. Nothing showed up. The mention in their weekly notes section appeared a week after I was told it would be and I was not contacted about it so I reached out to The Wild Hunt again. No response, so I tagged them on social media. I quickly received an email from Heather telling me they delayed the story to contact the accused predators first and get their side of the story after telling me I would not be interviewed. The accused of course only responded with legal threats if The Wild Hunt published anything with their names in it. So they didn’t. There was one more follow up in the community notes with a quote from Samuel Wagar’s facebook page about his “stepping down” from his leadership positions, with no mention of the police investigation, and that was all that was written. The posts even used different spellings of Samuel Wagar’s name in the tags so the community notes wouldn’t show up in their many past articles featuring him in a positive light. The comments in response to the community notes were pretty awful (they always have been on The Wild Hunt), but some were particularly slanderous towards me but remain unmoderated (also normal for the TWH).

I was told not to interact with The Wild Hunt via their social media because they didn’t interact with their followers. I was told there would be no story. I was told TWH does not publish stories about accusations that aren’t at trial even though they have done so in the past (but only when the accused is deceased). I was told:

“We are not in the business of judging situations. We are also not in the business of doing in depth investigative work or ‘speaking out.’ This is not the TWH mission.”

When Jason Pitzl-Waters was the managing editor he wrote multiple statements on his belief that the pagan community should have a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse and even went as far as to try to create a community statement against religious sexual abuse:

“I feel that a voluntary statement of ethics put forward and enforced by Pagan leaders, groups, event organizers, media outlets, and organizations could go a long way towards fostering an atmosphere that would support victims, discourage would-be abusers, and potentially avert some cases of abuse. I understand that any undertaking that attempts to gain the support of any sizable percentage of the larger Pagan community can be fraught with drama, dissent, and backlash, but I feel this is something worth the effort, and the process will have The Wild Hunt’s support at every stage.”

But Jason Pitzl-Waters’ important attempt at an ethics statement failed miserably, due to the very reasons we need a community statement in the first place, and he stepped down from his position at TWH years ago. I did not find Heather Greene to share his position or to be supportive to survivors of abuse. A friend informed me she had instead publicly supported occult personalities like Yeshe Rabbit, who had been accused of multiple accounts of abuse, and was not the person to contact about the issue. My last email exchange with Heather was mutually unkind and she asked me to forward any future contact to another staff member. Not long after the exchange she announced her retirement from The Wild Hunt on October 31, 2018. Months have now passed and The Wild Hunt has put more energy into reporting on the ridiculous annual Pantheacon drama than it has on the deeper and more serious issues in our community. To me it is a perfect metaphor for the problems in our community. We waste our time on infighting and whitewashing instead of fighting together against hate and unifying our policies.

So the results can be generalized as “everyone was too scared to do or say anything about it” and the fear of being sued, even wrongly, was great enough that no one would write a word on the issue. The only good to come from the whole horrible mess was promoting awareness of just how widespread sexual predation is within the greater neopagan community, how far back it goes, and how easy it is to keep everyone silent about it. If I had a dollar for every time someone commented that I should shut up or I will get sued, I could open a generous savings account.

RIPPLES IN THE GREATER COMMUNITY

Wiccan Church of Canada

Richard James, the co-founder of the Wiccan Church of Canada in Toronto with his wife Tamara James, commented on my sexual abuse article and his misogynistic words questioning the intelligence of women were not well received by readers or members of the WCC. He posted a second reply which I did not publish as it was worse than the first shown below and he had already dug his own grave. Due to complaints received, the WCC issued a statement that the group did not support its founder’s actions and words. James and his wife willingly stepped down from their leadership positions within the WCC and were replaced with new leadership in December of 2018. The Wild Hunt reported their retirement as a surprise to the local community, but the local community reported it as a long time coming.

Here is the WCC’s statement in response:

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To all Members, Priesthood, and Public

On September 28 2018, community leader, blogger, and witch, Sarah Anne Lawless posted an article regarding sexual harassment and assault in pagan communities. She shared many of her experiences of sexual violence by pagans, which ring true with many women in the circles we share. In her article and on her Facebook page, she listed names, including Samuel Wagar, the pagan Chaplain at the University of Alberta.

The executive Steering Committee members of the Wiccan Church of Canada’s Toronto Temple stand in support of Sarah Anne Lawless, her statements, and for the need to remedy the dire situation that plagues our communities. The severity of the situation is well known, with many well known Pagans including Kenny Klein, the Frosts, and others shaking the foundations of our communities with their actions. Countless trusted and esteemed elders have spoken in support of the perpetrators of violence, compounding the harm and breaking trust in those who have been seen as guides for years.

On October 3rd, our own Richard James posted a response (http://sarahannelawless.com/2018/09/28/sexual-trauma-in-the-pagan-community/#comment-17353 ) to Sarah in which he stated “… a significant number of women either can’t or just don’t apply good judgement about the men they choose to be ‘in love’ with.” … “I have no reason to doubt Ms Lawless’ account of events; but the obvious question arises. What the heck led her to enter into this many really bad relationships? The only answer I can think of is that nobody taught her to be wary.”

This places the blame and burden of sexual violence onto the target, and is not a statement we can condone or allow as a Committee. Victim blaming is a harm done to our community, its members, and our pledge to offer an inclusive and safe public space for practitioners in Toronto.

We have called on Richard to come forward, apologize, and begin making amends for these comments. We have been in contact with him, and offered our assistance in finding the right path forward.

The Wiccan Church of Canada promotes itself as a place where “All are welcome” “regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, tradition”, including families. To maintain this mandate, it is vital that we begin trying to rebuild trust.

For our part, the Steering Committee acknowledges that our community is not free of harassment. We understand that words must be backed with action to be worth their salt. Over the course of this year, at the request of many people, we have been moving to modernize and give teeth to the Temple’s harassment policy, and will be stepping up a gear to bring this to fruition. Public consultations will be announced ASAP, and all will be welcome to attend.

For anyone in our community, past or present, who has experienced harm at the hands of our members, or anyone shaken and hurt by this news, we encourage you to contact the Steering Committee, (Toronto.SC.WCC@gmail.com), any of its members, or a trusted friend. This can be done anonymously, and we will do our best to support you.

In faith and solidarity and love,

The Wiccan Church of Canada Steering Committee – Toronto Temple
Chair: Alex Bruneau Day
Secretary: Madelaine Humeniuk
Treasurer: Marie Gravelle
Community Liaison: Jennifer Rosser
Fundraising Coordinator: Alexa Veldhuizen

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This was the Wiccan Church of Canada’s reaction to their founder just making a misogynistic comment on a sexual abuse article. I applaud them for their considerate words and the physical actions they took. Their reaction was quick and thoughtful. Here is what happened within another group as a result of my article, but in this more serious case there were men accused of sexual assault among the membership.

Wolven Path / Sagh’ic-Tire Dhream / Sagh’ic Animist Society

Two of the men I accused on social media of being sexual predators in the PNW pagan community happened to both be in the same shamanic group when I published my article. I was not aware of this or how deeply entrenched in the group they had become since I moved away to rural Ontario. When I found out, I sent an email to the leaders of the group and their shamanic society informing them about the inappropriate sexual behaviour of two of their current members. I did not receive a response. Instead the main leader John-Luke Edwards supported the two men. I heard members quit over it. Since then their shamanic society website content and all of their annual conferences have completely disappeared and the name of both of their websites has changed: The Wolven Path (aka Sagh’ic-Tire Dhream) and the Sacred Circle of the Great Mystery Shamanic Society (SCGMSS for short) are now both the “Sagh’ic Animist Society”. I don’t know what to make of this except to guess that the shamanic society and its conferences collapsed. Both men still seem to be members of what remains.

POSITIVE OUTCOMES

People in the magical community really started talking about sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and the abuse of fake lore to gain power over spiritual groups. The conversation picked up and it is still going. Keep talking about it. Abuse doesn’t go away when we ignore it, it gets worse. Keep writing, keep making art, keep singing songs, keep pointing fingers, keep demanding accountability, keep protesting, keep standing up for others, and keep supporting those who speak up.

A positive-negative outcome of the greater fallout of my essay on sexual abuse was that more victims did come forward, sharing their stories and naming names. It is simultaneously good and terrible. There are so very many abusers, not just in our community, but in society right now. Predation is endemic to humanity and it is time for the era of silence to be over.

Canadians pagans emailed me to tell me how they had left an unhealthy group or their group had removed a leader accused of abuse because of my article. Mad love and respect to all of those who have braved their fear and spoken up. I wish it didn’t happen to you, I wish life weren’t so painful and messy, but I am so proud of you for standing up and saying “No! Never again!” Our safety is in our numbers. The more of us that stand up and say #metoo, the more we will outnumber them, the less they are able to deny their crimes, and the less likely they will get away with it. Those who have the strength should help those who do not. We are all on this dying planet together as one species and we should be helping one another, not hurting each other and making things even worse.

Gods & Radicals Does the Right Thing

Shortly after my article was published, multiple people came forward and reported sexual abuse at the hands of two Gods & Radicals contributors: Sean Donahue and Doctor Bones. People were happy to have justification to hate the inflammatory Doctor Bones, but the news about Sean Donahue shocked the pagan and herbalist communities. I had met him on more than one occasion, but before the accusations came out I seemed to be the only person in the herbal community who disliked him and did not want to spend time with him. Now I know my heebie jeebies were founded as he was attempting to molest his patients and write it off as part of the healing process.

In an impressive demonstration of public relations, Gods & Radicals staff removed both men’s writings from the website and issued public statements on their site and on their different social media platforms of what happened, what steps they were taking, and what their policy was on sexual abuse. Some people may view Gods & Radicals as troublesome anarchists, but their reaction and actions set a good example for all modern pagan media and groups on what to do when your staff  or a “big name pagan” is accused of sexual misconduct. Admit the harm done, do something about it, say something about it, and then try to move forward as best you can. Do not cower and play it safe waiting for it to either go away or for someone else to do or say something first. Definitely do not verbally assault the victims coming to you with accusations. Maybe read this useful media kit on sexual assault before making a decision on what stance you will take.

IN CONCLUSION

It was all a really, truly awful experience for me that involved a lot of weeping, constant soul-crushing news, and people trying to harm me as badly as they could. I would not wish this on anyone. One of my therapists was mad at me for speaking out when I already had enough trouble on my plate to deal with in my personal life. She viewed it as harmful; like kicking a horse when it’s already down. My other therapist was proud of me and saw it as a step towards healing from my abuse. Which one is right? Both?

What I went through is why people don’t speak out. This is why after sexual harassment and assault happens, most victims suffer in silence and try to live with the pain long-term. Even if you go to the police and get some form of justice, you will have to suffer to get it. Will re-living sexual trauma and suffering through a court case result in a victim sleeping better at night? No. Is it the right thing to do anyway? Honestly, I don’t know anymore. I have no answers here, only my experiences. Nothing makes any of this better. Nothing. Everyone on all sides gets hurt. I will never not know how depraved humanity can be and how far a person’s mind will go to try to protect itself. I will never get back the innocent, kind, trusting person I was before I was abused. She was annoyingly cheerful and saw good in everyone. She is long dead.

The only thing that can make me feel better at this point is seeing other people and groups take actions – whether it is outing abusers, creating group and community statements on sexual abuse, creating policies that protect people at events, teaching sex education and etiquette, putting an end to the great rite as an initiation ceremony in Wicca, speaking out against the over sexualization of magical practices, speaking out against gender inequality in magical groups, destroying group hierarchies and guru worship, and other acts of destruction, resistance, and healing. I want to see the new generations get so mad they burn it all down and leave the hope of something better in their wake.

If we don’t do something now, things will not change but get worse and more and more people will leave. Soon the only people left in our real life pagan communities will be the worst of our communities. Part of me suspects we are already at this point in much of North America. Is it worth saving? I don’t personally think so, but as you can tell I’m in a bit of dark mood at present. Ask me again in five years as all things are cyclical.

Author Sarah

Illustrator and weaver of words. Witch. Forest siren with talons, succubic tendencies, a love of otherworldly beauty, poisonous plants, wild places and dead things.

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