Pagans everywhere are still in a bit of an uproar. Paedophile and predator, Robyn Fletcher was released from supervision after serving 10 years in jail and another 10+ years under a supervision order. What is most upsetting are the headlines. “Paedophile witch” “Sex witch” “self-proclaimed sex witch”…
Let’s be very clear – there is no room in modern paganism for paedophilia, sexual violence or rape…or indeed any other non-consensual act. Fletcher might consider himself a witch but what he did was not witchcraft.
Consent is a challenging issue – not just for pagans but for society in general. Some groups work sky-clad (naked) in ritual but this is not to be confused with an invitation to sexual contact. Nobody has the right to touch you unless you specifically invite it – and taking your clothes off for ritual purposes is not an invitation to be touched. Holding hands is one thing. Accepting being anointed with oil is even ok (as long as you are advised beforehand, and the anointing does not touch any intimate areas). Remember that, even if you initially said yes, you can change your mind about working naked if, at any stage, you become uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how far into the ritual you are – if things don’t feel right, if you are touched without your consent, or if you are asked to do something that you didn’t agree to or don’t wish to do, then it is ok to take action – like putting your robes back on again, or removing yourself from the circle altogether.
Many people don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to make a fuss, stand out, or be difficult. Especially when we aren’t sure if we have understood the situation correctly. But this is what predators count on. They beguile, they charm, they manipulate. Little by little you are nudged towards situations where you might comply simply because you don’t want to make a scene or because their intention is ambiguous.
This is not paganism. This is sexual predator behaviour. Sadly, the pagan community is a place where sexual predators can hide behind ritual nudity and more liberal attitudes towards sex and intimacy. We want you to be safe in the circle. Read our Safety in the Circle brochure for advice on how to ensure your safe space.
Oh – and one last thing – don’t be afraid to report an assault, regardless of how you think it might look to someone in authority. If you don’t want to do it alone, let PAN help.