There's been a lot of 'discussion' over the last few days in the pagan community over a prominent member arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography. He wasn't a criminal hiding behind cultism. This man is a real pagan and respected artist and author.
This issue is a tricky one for me. Heck this is the second draft of my thoughts.
As an incest and child sexual abuse survivor my feelings are very complicated over these issues.
First off I never heard of the man until a week ago when exposed to his blog. I have no ducks in this race of a personal nature. But others do.
I want to discuss the community reaction as I have seen it.
And then I want to discuss the problem from my unique perspective that of childhood victim and the relative of a man also arrested, then convicted of possession of child pornography. And the abuses hurled at those around the actor.
90% of what I see commented on in the pagan forums is divided almost entirely into two rants:
1. How will this man's actions reflect upon us ("true") Pagans to the outside world
2. How furious the pagan community is and what violent actions they espouse to want to visit upon this man
Here's the thing, this man's actions are his OWN. The are not a reflection of anything but his own sickness. Period.
And he is a "true" pagan. But that's not indicative of anything but his religious affiliation not predicate to his behavior.
Pedophiles and child pornographers and those that gravitate towards such materials are found in all strata of society. It's no reflection on the races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, educations, or the communities in which these people self-identify or reside.
The psychology of predation on the most part shows these people as able to blend. Prodigious chameleons and pathologically able to appear as needed to feed their predation.
A lot of the time they are so good at masking these parts of themselves that they are regarded as pillars of the communities they live. They are the coach, priest, teacher, neighbor, parent, sibling, friend. They can just as easily fool those closest to them as the stranger or passing acquaintance. They can be seen as good spouses, parents, children and friends. They can be seen as best of a community. That's how good a predator can be at masking their true nature.
Not all of these folks are good at hiding. Those usually get caught. But there are predators who can abuse for years right under everyone's noses before being caught.And some never get caught. Some never see justice due to a long line of reasons. My attackers live full lives with one exception. He died unknown to those but his victims as a monster.
In this case the man was arrested and according to the news report admitted to the charges. But he has yet to be tried. Keep that in mind in case he is not guilty.
I personally have no doubts but I respect our process of litigation.
What has me angry is all the concern about how others will view us. Point of fact that thus far his religious beliefs seem to only be a matter of discussion with the pagan community. For now the press hasn't responded with the 'Pagan Pedophile' lead. And though it's probable his religious views may be brought up as a form of scandal. Why not disallow the fervor?
If some were to question me about pedophilia and paganism in regards to this case I would state that yes the man is pagan. That religion has no baring on his case. His arrest has no connection to our faiths or its traditions. His actions speak only about himself and his sickness.
There's been a lot of yelling about how other faiths have abusers. "Those Catholics!!!!" Stop it! Right. Now.
His actions reflect on him. Period.
And unless there is a concerted effort to hide his predation within the multitude of pagan tradition and those we then do not allow him to be brought to justice to protect those traditions your analogies are false and idiotic.
On the second point above, I get it. The anger when children are harmed is electric. I feel the rage. As a past victim I know how a child's life is shattered by abuse. The man had pornography. He distributed it. It didn't say be created it. But children were harmed and instead of reporting the abuse he shared with others. His actions, if true, are foul.
But the mob mentality, the call to violence, the comments of smug vitriol ask yourselves what good are they serving? Is it schadenfreude? Are you attempting to distance yourself from his actions by sheer force of fury? How much violence is appropriate? Who gets to decide? How do you think your words are affecting those who love him? Do care about them? Are you recognizing the pain of the family, colleagues, community in which he was a part? Are your comments doing any good for the victims? How does your voice in this problem reflect the values of your tradition?
And I swear if I hear about castration one more time! Sexual predation is about control not the penis. I was abused for 7 years. Age 2-9. There are an infinite amount of ways a predator can abuse and penetrate and never once use their sex organs. Trust me I have first hand experience. Removing testes or penises or sewing shut of vaginas doesn't do anything to stop predation. Period. So STFU and educate yourselves about the realities of rape and the minds of predators!
The second part of my reflection on this event is the utter lack of regard for the victims. All of them.
I am not apologizing for this man. He's getting the opportunity to defend himself. But he hasn't yet been convicted. And if convicted he deserves the full measure of the law. I only care that justice is served.
My real concern is for those harmed. The children in the videos. Any possible children who he may have harmed directly. Those who were duped by him and loved and respected him.
They deserve our love and compassion and healing. Period.
As I said as a child I was vilified. Branded as a liar when physical evidence (my hymen was intact) was lacking. Some of them heard my screams saw the bloody stool watched as I deteriorated but refused to act. But they knew. I have no compassion for those people. I hold them just as responsible as my abuser.
Later in my 30's as I was struggling through PTSD, directly related to my childhood trauma, a close family member was rightfully convicted of possession of child pornography. This person never harmed me. They weren't the type one would ever expect to have such deviance. But the community blamed us for not turning them in. It didn't matter that we had no knowledge of the activities of that family member. We were held somehow accountable in the court of opinion.
Trust me I'd turn in my own child if I thought they were harming another person. No one should ever experience what I did.
See once the community rage can't be directed at the perp it goes to the spouse or parent or colleagues. I've seen it happen over and over. And unless those folks actually are accessories to the crimes (I say punish to fullest if they are) they are also victims. They've been cruelly shattered too just in a different way. But often they are ostracized not cared for.
So what am I saying?
Think about how your words will affect others.
Anger, shock, sadness, horror, rage, confusion, doubt are all normal reactions to finding out about a predator in your midst. But making healthy/unhealthy choices on how to express those emotions can heal or shatter communities.
This man's actions are his own. They are not a reflection of others no matter how they can be identified with him. (Race, religion, education, socioeconomic strata)
If you harbour a predator you are culpable in my eyes.
This isn't an simple issue it encircles and tightens as one investigates deeper. Respect that.
How do we minister to imprisoned sex offenders?
Do our traditions value redemption?
How do we handle people who have served their time and want to reintegrate into our fellowships?
Are these offenders able to be rehabilitated?
I have no answers to those last few questions. I am understandably conflicted. Buy we need to address them for our communities religious and otherwise.
And on a final note, if you suspect sexual abuse or crimes against children REPORT IT!
It's easier to be wrong and apologize and help repair reputations than it is to repair the souls of the victims.
I wish everyday that someone had put me first as a child.
I conclusion put away the offenders and help the victims heal.