*Edited to add: If you think that downloading and sharing child pornography is somehow okay, somehow doesn’t hurt anyone, somehow is victimless, and the story of the woman whose uncle distributed videos of him raping her as a child isn’t moving enough, perhaps watching a fictionalized telling of such a story will wake you up. Downloaded Child was on Law & Order:SVU April 2, 2014. Obviously, trigger warnings for child sexual abuse, rape, domestic abuse….anyone who is familiar with the show knows it can be triggery but this one has a lot of triggers even for SVU.
I nearly used “predators” in the title but I actually dislike the term “sexual predator” because while certainly it may be accurate, real predators serve a function in the cycle of life. Sexual monsters do not. They are something which should be eradicated, not accepted, certainly not protected. But the often are protected. Silence is a large part of that protection.
There has been a great deal blogged on this so you have likely seen much of what I might share here, but for various reasons I feel it’s important for me to take a stand here. Mostly, because I believe it’s important for us all to take a stand. There has already been some sense (and I am not linking to posts which I am criticizing for a couple of reasons 1) I don’t want to make an example of one post when there have been several others making the same statement as well as several comments in other posts, 2) many I do not want to give traffic to) that this is just a Wiccanate issue, that those of us in Reconstructionist religions and those who have rejected (I may do a not very nice post on that one day) the term “Pagan” are somehow immune. But we are not. There are many abusers, not all sexual and not all aimed at children, in the broadest spectrums of Pagan/Polytheistic identified community. And it’s time to take a stand against all abusers.
But when it comes to children, it’s even more important to speak out. It’s decades past the time that this should have been dealt with, in fact. I’m one of those who had heard “rumors” about Kenneth Klein 25 or more years ago. They only even resemble rumors because of my distance, I didn’t know him. But I knew that attempts to report him had been made and that pressure was put on those who wanted him charged. “We must protect the community.”
At that time I was also aware of rapists and others being protected by “big names” and gathering organizers in Paganism. The late ’80s actually saw a great deal of what turned out to be fruitless dialogue on abusers, rapists, child molesters and other monsters in our midst. Very little happened to these monsters. “It would look bad for all Pagans.”
This silencing happens because we do live in a rape culture, the Pagan community no less than any other. We live in a culture where those in power actively shame and terrorize victims from speaking out, to protect those who abuse under the misguided notion that admitting these things happen implicates us all. Of course, when the allegations of abuse by Catholic priests came out, some people I knew who told me this were outraged that the Catholic church had protected these priests. We can see how what really implicates the whole is protecting the guilty only when it happens in another group, we lie to ourselves that it can’t happen in our own and when it does we decide to hide it…while condemning others for doing the same.
This needs to stop.
When it comes to the silence of the victims, no one who didn’t report because they were afraid either directly of him, of others who had power who may work to silence them, even of their own pain and past, is to blame. Those who took power to silence others, whether they were physical abusers or not, I do believe deserve blame. And I hope at least some come forward to be accountable as many of Klein’s victims come forward, including his former wife and children. Allegations Emerge After Pagan Author Charged With Possessing Child Pornography
During the fall out of Klein’s arrest, issues with other Pagans came up. I seemed to have missed that Gavin and Yvonne Frost resurfaced awhile back Apparently, they were to be at the Florida Pagan Gathering to the horror of many, with the organizers, as has so often happened in so many cases for decades, choosing to support the abusers rather than those who want an end to it. (Apparently, they will not be there)
In the 1970s and all subsequent editions the Frosts’ Witches Bible included a ritual deflowering of pubescent children. There are those who want to excuse this, to say they probably never did it, as if doing it would be objectionable for someone who wrote it, and, after all, who could imagine this elderly couple as child predators. But even if someone wants to believe they didn’t once do this, they gave a damn manual to others who did. Because you know someone did. At the least, it’s probably messed the heads of a lot of young people who read it. I remember it doing a bit of a number on me as a teen when I found it. I was fortunate it wasn’t the first book I found and I think that finding Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance helped me not get more screwed in the head by it. (I might not agree with Starhawk on much today, but at least her feminist message offered something far more empowering than the idea that to be a Witch I should have been ritually raped by an adult at puberty)
It’s also high time we keep nailing home some of the gross misinformation and misunderstanding that is being spouted now.
One of these is the idea that Klein isn’t really a bad person because “all he did was download some photos, you can’t hurt a child by that.” First, let’s remember that his arrest has given voice to many he has physically abused. But the idea that child pornography is “just photos” and doesn’t harm children is mind-bogglingly naive. Do you think these photos are some how magically made without the children being harmed? “Oh, well, yes,” you say, “but it’s only the fault of those who made them, let’s go after them.” Do not doubt that efforts are being made on that, they may well be arrests of those making it, we just don’t recognize their names. But it is true that it sometimes hard to track down, there are multinational task-forces working on this constantly. It’s a huge battle.
Some producers are small time, like a man selling videos of him raping his young niece. Tell me no child was harmed there. Some producers of child pornography are involved large underground corporations that traffic unimaginable numbers of children. (I do not normally use Wikipedia as a source, however, I felt like I was going crazy trying to find the most complete source for this).
And those who buy the products of these monsters are themselves directly responsible for the harm to those children. Demand runs supply. (consider this too, if you participate in adult pornography, know your sources for that…while some may be consensual on the part of all actors, not all is …obviously there are no blurred lines when it comes to children, at all) On the other side of things, while some pedophiles do actually simply use pornography, others find it inspiration and ideas to pursue their own physical attacks. Just like there have likely been “Witches” who followed the Frosts’ instructions on raping children, anyone who shares, not only those who made it, child pornography may be inspiring another to rape.
Another inventive excuse I have seen has also been that it “must just be photos of ‘skyclad’ children at festivals.” Well, he may have such photos, as well, but while this may seem “innocent” and not having harmed those children, why would anyone who wasn’t a pedophile have such photos at all? Who else takes photos of naked children and looks at them? As I noted, I had heard the “rumors” and have heard first hand parents who have said that they wouldn’t have their children at festivals that this man (and several others) was at, let alone let them run naked in his presence.
Actually, the ease with nudity that the Pagan community is known for is one of the issues we’ve often have had with sexual monsters. Of course, this isn’t only in regards to children. As an adult at Pagan gatherings I became increasingly uncomfortable being unclothed. One of the first gatherings I was at we had a guy who would lurk and watch women, who no one seemed to know and who didn’t participate in any of the events happening, who showed no real signs of being Pagan but just lurked around our campsite and made all the women in our camping area uncomfortable. We started noticing him the showers when women were in there (it was open group showers) and most of us started keeping our cloths on outside the shower and began showering with groups of men we knew were safe. This guy had no problem with being noticed watching women but was apparently terrified that he might be accused of watching men. Of course, we did this because our concerns about him
Even such voyeuristic activity is assault, not only because you do not know if it will become more but because it forces the victims of it to change our behavior. And in recent years, I have become more aware of much worse that can be for children. Children who are subjected to inappropriate sexual behavior towards them, even if they are untouched, and whether it’s knowing they are being watched, having remarks made to or about them or others in their hearing or seeing activity which should not be flaunted in front of anyone who is not a wiling participant can have a damaging effect on a child. (sorry, this has been primarily from discussions, I do not have sources)
The other issue that comes up is the “innocent until proven guilty” one. First, keep in mind that is about the courts. Let’s also remember that Klein admitted to having this pornography.. However, one of the things that came up in the wider world regarding Dylan Farrow coming forward about her abuse by Woody Allen is that” innocent until proven guilty” should truly be owed the victim of sexual assault, far more than the accused especially when the accused has so much more power even beyond the power they had over their victim. Victims almost always feel that they are the ones on trial in public opinion if they come forward and, therefore, many do not. I fear that the attacks which we saw on Dylan Farrow and her mother have not helped that situation in the wider world. This is rape culture.
Which brings ups back to silence and the silencing within our community that has gone on and is still going on.
There have been comments from Pagans regarding those coming forward that “how can we believe these people coming forward if they hide behind anonymity?” This shows a serious disconnect from the reality victims face. The right of a victim to not make themselves publicly known for further abuse is something we need to respect. Especially among Pagans who have often claimed many less serious reasons for taking pseudonyms. Consider that by making this remark you are already attacking the victim for speaking out, why would they want to make themselves an easier target?
Another defender of Klein has said that she doesn’t want to hear “I knew about this all along.” Well, some of us did. And some of us wish deeply we had known more and could have done more. Some who did know more probably should be ashamed…..but as I said, that does not include the victims. It does include those the victims disclosed to in order to get help who refused to help them.
I have deep personal issues with being told to be silent, and it’s largely why I am writing this. Unfortunately, I become so enraged by being told to shut up that I often cannot express myself verbally and that’s largely why I’m writing this now instead of several weeks ago. And this is the hard part for me.
I was molested when I was 10 years old by a teenage foster brother. I was lucky, I know that, that I did feel I could go to my mother with what he did. I was not silenced then. He was removed from our house within hours. I was truly fortunate. However….
After that I quickly learned that there must be silence. As far as my family was concerned this boy never lived with us. He was not to be mentioned, what happened to me was not to be mentioned. At all. It never happened.
But, of course, it did. And because of this silencing I never got the help I needed to deal with what was done with me. I also found out only a few years ago that nothing was done about him doing this at all, he was placed in a new home in another town with two girls who were younger than I was. I have no idea if he hurt them or not but he was with them until he graduated and a relative, who rolled her eyes and refused to acknowledge that I was molested by him (I’m sure she knew at the time, but was happy to pretend it didn’t happen and apparently still is), proceeded to prattle on about “how well he did” there.
The silence I learned undoubtedly is part of what kept me from reporting being raped about 10 years later. The other issue was how confused by our rape culture I was at the time, because it took a long time for me to tell myself that I was raped. Even though I knew. I was flirting with the guy, I was quite drunk, I probably would have later slept with him if he hadn’t raped me that night, he wasn’t someone I really knew but he wasn’t the “complete stranger jumping out of an alley with a knife.” There was no knife. Even if at the time I knew how to fight back, and I didn’t then, I probably wouldn’t have been able to due to how drunk I was. I even passed out during it, so it shouldn’t have been so bad, right? That night when I got home, not having said anything to the friend I was with, I was terrified he’d followed me and that hurt me more. Yet in the light of day, I told myself it wasn’t really rape. Because he was someone I had been attracted to and flirted with. It took years to define it. And, of course, it took even more years to tell anyone else at all.
And those four paragraphs were the hardest thing for me to write ever. Because that call for silence is so fucking hard to break. And why no one should ever be told to be silent about being a victim. It’s funny how much easier it was for me to overcome any physical fear I had, by the things I more often write about here, than it has been for me to over come the fucking silence.
A lot of people are looking at what to do about this. Or were. There is, of course, concern now that the blogosphere is quieting on this that we might start losing interest in doing anything. And that’s a real concern, given that we’ve gotten so very good at not doing anything. Previous attempts have failed largely for this reason as Brendan Myers discussed in Whatever happened to the Pagan Community Statement on Religious Sexual Abuse? Psychotherapist Cat Chapin-Bishop has some concrete advice in Responding to Abuse in the Pagan Community.
Some of this might be overwhelming for many. So I’m going to give my only piece of advice as a first step. One that others have called for such as Yvonne Aburrow
Stop the silence! Stop it now! Listen to the victims! Give them a voice! Yes, take action from that and give the victims resources for help, get everyone resources to defend themselves as they can, but first give them a voice!
Two other links on this subject which I do not think I linked to previously:
On Outing Abusers
Predators in Paganism (Trigger Warning)
Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert