by Avery Hart
As unpleasant as the topic of abuse may seem, it is a vital part of learning and growing as witches. There are predators in every community but pagan and occult communities present a particularly appealing environment to potential abusers.
Pagan faiths and practices have a constant influx of new and inexperienced members who lack the knowledge and support systems to ward off abusers. They make easy targets for those who would warp information and the often intense emotional experience of finding yourself in a new spiritual community.
Even experienced members of our communities find themselves at the mercy of abusers, often because we are not vigilant about protecting ourselves, allowing these predators to find foothold in our communities.
The frequency with which I hear about abusive individuals using witchcraft and occultism to lure younger practitioners into unhealthy and dependent relationships is appalling. I’ve certainly had a fair number of run-ins with them and it’s alarming to think of how many other people are encountering abusers like this unknowingly on a daily basis.
There are ways we can guard agains predators in our communities though!
Education and awareness can go a long way to keeping abusers from ever gaining traction. We must learn to recognize them and take a zero tolerance stance in regard to these kinds of behaviors.
So how do we recognize these dangers?
Abusers in pagan communities typically fit a profile, they’re often older than their targets and have an inflamed sense of self importance. In their minds, they are always right and will frequently spout off questionable credentials that supposedly make them infallible.
They undermine the confidence of their victims in order to posture themselves as ineffable experts, subtly or not so subtly calling negative attention to the victims youth (often by infantilizing them, calling them younger than they are and displaying rampant ageism), their inexperience (regardless of actual skill level or experience), perceived physical or mental “flaws”, sexual or gender orientation, and personal beliefs that disagree with their own.
These tactics serve to very quickly break down the victims self image and bring them around to being dependent on the abuser for validity in their practice.
Dialog with abusers of this sort is a constant switch between undermining the victims credibility and painting themselves as the all knowing teacher, there to save the inexperienced practitioner, impart enlightenment and healing to catapult you into a level of spiritual understanding that you’ve never imagined!
All if you’ll just do whatever they want at the expense of your personal comfort, mental integrity and religious/spiritual beliefs.
Often abusers will try to isolate their target, either literally or through other means. They will discourage their victim from becoming close with other members of their communities except those which the abuser already controls, casting them as outsiders, quacks or dangerous to the potential enlightenment of their victim. If this fails they will often use further methods, resorting to bouts of rage, the silent treatment, gaslighting and so forth to coerce their victim into submission.
No matter what, with people like this the victims beliefs are wrong and must be superimposed with the abusers. They throw sources at the victim that are difficult to understand and mostly just a lot of spiritualist jargon. They present their beliefs in absolutes and they diminish the victims ideas and beliefs by treating them as though they’re silly, outdated or juvenile.
To top it all off as soon as their victim tries to stand up for themselves or refute anything that the abuser says they resort to pity tactics.
The abuser might recount every misguided student they’ve had that disappointed them and every heartbreak they’ve had at the hands of the cruel young people that they’re just trying to shepherd to spiritual awakening. All the while they’re lamenting that their victim is going to be just another in a long line of hurt, thereby guilting the victim into complacency.
Oftentimes directly following episodes like this will come assurance from the abuser that the victim is The One, the person they’ve been waiting for, special, unlike all who came before them and the only one who can “save” the beaten and tired abuser.
In reality the goals of these abusers are all shockingly similar. They either want to be worshiped and powerful or they want sex. Oftentimes they want both. They manipulate their victims emotionally until they’ll do whatever is asked of them and then the abuser promises spiritual awakening that lies just beyond the realm of “sacred sexuality” or some such tripe and that to reach it the victim has to have sex with them. If I had a dime for every man I’ve had try use this bullshit on me I would be able to keep myself in good reading material for quite some time.
So, what do you do when you run across people like this?
You run, plain and simple.
Remove every means of communication that you have with them, block their number, their email address, every social site you’re on. Cut yourself off from them, do not meet with them, do not negotiate with them, do not speak with them. Tell people that you’re close to about them, take safety precautions and make sure that you have a solid support system.
Often these abusers will fight very hard to keep in contact with you, going to extreme lengths, threatening and stalking you. If this happens, report them to the police immediately. It’s also a good idea to retain all past communications you’ve had with them for future reference in case you should need them for talking to police or legal advisors.
I know all of this may seem extreme but I have had to do this myself, twice.
Do not tolerate this person, they will do irreparable damage to your self worth and mental wellbeing. As soon as you identify them as an abuser, you must leave.
If you can without endangering yourself, expose your abuser.
Tell the moderators of websites, organizers of groups and other people in positions of power about what has happened to you and who the abuser is. They can help remove this person from groups and thereby protect others from falling into their grasp as well.
There’s a long standing habit as far as the pagan community is concerned of protecting our abusers. We don’t want to tarnish their names, we don’t want to stir up trouble, we don’t want to take the risk of being blamed for our abuse. Often “live and let live” is the prevailing sentiment. This is not helping anyone but the abuser though. If you can do so safely, let the world see them for what they are and what they have done.
If the moderators of the pagan groups you frequent won’t take action to protect you and remove the abuser, you need to leave. It is not worth your safety and sanity to retain a social group that refuses to support you. There are safer, happier pagan communities that will welcome you with open arms.
If you aren’t involved with a person like this but still want to protect yourself and keep others safe please spread this around! Talk to your pagan friends about it, post information about it on forums, pass out pamphlets at events and group meetings. Awareness is the best way to fight predators in our communities. The more aware the entire community is of the dangers that people like this pose, the less likely we will be to let them into our social circles, potentially saving many susceptible practitioners from coming into contact with them at all.
I would like to also mention that this is only one form of abuse prevalent in our community, if your experience with abuse does not fit these parameters that does not invalidate your experience. You are still entitled to seek help and protect yourself. This is simply the most common form that I’ve witnessed and the kind of abuse in the pagan community that I have the most experience with.
Above all, your safety comes first.
Educate yourself, build awareness in your communities and help create a nurturing environment for you and everyone else to learn and grow in their practice.
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