Warning: This post contains sexually oriented topics- especially in relation to childhood abuse, child pornography, and related subjects. If you are uncomfortable with or do not with to see this sort of content, please do not click the “Read More”.
I recently came across this post in the PBP facebook group and cringed so hard I think I might have further broken a tooth or two. It starts out well enough and then takes a turn in a direction for the worst in my opinion.
The post is talking about Kenny Klein, author and folk musician; as The Witching Hour notes, Klein was the author of several books, including Through The Faerie Glass, Fairy Tale Rituals, Fairy Tale Magic, and The Flowering Rod: Men and Their Role in Paganism.
In all reporting articles now, it has been made clear a few things:
- Multiple people (including his own ex-wife and children) have stated being prior victims of abuse from him, or having negative experiences with him in this manner (and some of them admit to having been minors at the time of these experiences).
- He has been under investigation for a while, from what it sounds like, for these things- and it seems like he’s also been reported before for these exact things.
- A recent tip off (and i’m assuming his prior history) was enough to get the police a warrant to search his property and seize his computer.
- On his computer, they found enough Child Pornography to get him on 25 counts of possession. (25 counts is a LOT of child pron)
- He admitted to police that a. that was his computer b. he used it to store the material and c. he used it to download the material; in other words, he had already plead guilty and confessed to it.
In other words, the man in question was a prominent member of our community and even an authority of sorts who produced multiple materials…. A prominent Pagan author and Folk Musician, who regularly participated in teaching at community events and circles, who was recently incarcerated after confessing to being in possession of child pornography; 25 counts of Child Pornography, to be exact- with all persons being described as “under the age of 13”.
What strikes me as borderline apologist about Pixie’s article is when they say:
I can understand Pagans who don’t want to give their money to someone with this past. However to devalue someone’s work in light of a personal indiscretion seems wrong when we don’t do it in so many other areas […] The Pagan community is relatively small, but not different than other communities. We are not special or immune to the ugly parts of reality […] I wish Pagan communities would take more care in policing boundaries, using good judgement, and calling out predatory behavior. This is the part of the discussion where we have to separate the Klein incident and focus on our own local communities and experiences. I don’t know Klein, and unless you do you can’t speak to his predatory behavior (and by “know” I mean you’ve been in a coven with him or actually interacted with him more than once or twice). I don’t know if he was a predator in Pagan spaces or rituals. Incidents like this will always happen, no matter what we do, because that’s the ugly side of human nature – but other incidents of predatory behavior happen in our community right in front of us. Instead of looking the other way, making excuses, or ostracizing those who speak up we need to start acting as guardians of our own community.
I don’t exactly understand where they’re getting the idea that the Pagan community is small but I digress. I feel like they’re trying to make the assertion that because it is unrelated to our community, then it’s not worth focusing on and there’s “more important instances happening in our community that do need to be focused on and taken care of”. This bothers me greatly because it’s not as unrelated to our community as Pixie thinks it is; he was a community member, he produced materials bought by the community, he was considered an authority, of some form, by the community. Therefore it is not “unrelated” at all, even if these things took place “separate from community spaces and events”.
According to many people who have come forward after his arrest, though, it has taken place in Pagan spaces in one form or another since the 90’s. Which means we should be taking it more seriously than we already are and should be taking more steps to “amputate” Klein (and those like him) from the community.
The large number of appropriative material in some of his books should have been reason enough to out him from his position of authority in our community as we grow, evolve, and (hopefully) become more culturally aware… But then the subject of child pornography possession comes up and it’s all “lets separate the man from the work”…
Well his work was problematic in the first place, now he’s problematic and potentially dangerous to the children and young adults in our community… So now what? Easy. We should do the same thing that we should do for all other known and proven abusers. But what is that exactly?
I’m personally a huge fan of the 4 step process outlined by TheGeekyBlonde in her video detailing how she believes communities should deal with manipulation, abuse, and especially sexually-based crimes. It’s related to the youtube abuse issue recently, but I feel it’s applicable to all communities including our own- especially when talking about sexual abuse in all forms.
Step 1 – Amputate: Cut offending members off from the community in all forms so that they cannot continue to influence them, abuse or manipulate members, etc.
Don’t attempt to rationalize their behavior. Don’t attempt to “separate the man from the material”; don’t attempt to rationalize continuing to buy his material because “we don’t know if any of this took place in Pagan circles”; stop purchasing their books, their music, or other products; if you own a retail outlet catering to Pagan individuals and stock their products, stop doing so.
“When someone steps on your foot, you say “ouch!”. If they have proven themselves to be a serial foot stepper, you get them away from other people’s feet.”
Cut him off from the community. It’s not difficult.
Step 2 – Vaccinate: Let the rest of the community know that these types of people, behaviors, and actions should not (and will not) be tolerated and are detrimental to our community in all forms. Educate as to why they are harmful and problematic and why they cannot be acceptable in a healthy communty.
“Write blog posts, make videos, let everyone know exactly where you stand on these issues. Stand with the victim.”
Step 3 – Elevate: Offer (both remorseful abusers and the abused) counseling or advise to seek counseling. Elevate victims, show them compassion and solidarity, and lend a helping hand. Provide safe spaces, do what you can to make existing spaces safer. Provide education and resources to continue to elevate the community and help it grow in a positive direction. Provide role models (and act as one yourself)
“and role models don’t talk to sex offenders”
… Or buy their stuff, or coddle them, or protect them, or rationalize their behavior (etc).
Step 4 – Exfoliate: Continue the process and repeat the message regularly and loudly. Be active in the process an continue being active.
“So if you see someone being creepy […] call them out on it. Stop them from being creepy […] Be an active participant in making your community better.”
Before we go any further, though, I’ve heard thousands of cries from community members about “false accusations”. So lets go over some statistics about “false cases” and why it matters that we take the word of the perceived victim over the word of the abuser at all times and in all abuse cases.
I highly suggest you all watch the video I linked to where I got the 4 steps to dealing with abusers. But it’s not just for her explanations of the steps, either. The video opens up with statistics that are easily correlated through google searching and which we should ALL know already due to rape culture discussions.
If you don’t want to watch the video yourself, allow me to provide the write-out for you:
“Let’s lay some basic ground work before we really get into it. 2% of all reported rapes turn out to be false accusations, and of that 2%, many of the victims were actually pressured by the police, the rapist, or the rapist’s family to cover up the crime. So, with that in mind, that mean’s that AT LEAST 98% of all reported rape cases are true. 54% of rape victims don’t even report to the police which can be explained for a multitude of reasons […]”
The fact is that “False accusations” has been proven to be a near-lie that we need to stop buying into.
These statistics usually hold true across multiple forms of abuse- not just rape and other forms of sexual abuse; even though the numbers and percentages change, the low rate of reporting experienced abuse, and the low rate of “false accusations” hold steady across multiple platforms of abuse. Meaning you are more likely to encounter a “true” case of abuse (especially sexual abuse) than you are to encounter a “false” case of abuse.
Again, this is easily corroborated through a simple google search. I would also suggest these following links for more information about spiritual, ritualistic, and other forms of abuse (and how to spot it) in our community:
The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (Version 2.7); Coven Abuse – The Coven Abuse Self-Help Index: Tools For Survival, Evasion, and Escape; Abusive Leaders, Grooming, and Seduction; Mean Girls, GCB, and GPB, and Emotional Bullying; Personal Boundaries and Societal Norms; Recognizing Cult Behavior in Pagan Groups; Recognizing Cult Behavior in Pagan Communities; Pagan Predators; Pagan Leadership and “Witch Wars”; Spiritual Abuse: 10 Ways to Spot It; The Action Plan to Stop Christian Witchcraft-Related Child Abuse; Religion, Abuse, and Power; The Dangers of Wiccan Covens and Other Neo-Pagan Groups to Women and Children; Ritualistic Child Abuse
As for whether or not we should take ANY accusation seriously, even in terms of “he said she said”, she also has this to say:
“Let me make something very clear: You can never do wrong by believing a victim. Even if, against all odds, their accusations prove to be false, all YOU did, as a bystander, is believe a vulnerable person. And the word of the victim should always be placed at a much higher level than that of their abuser. If you want to “stay neutral” or “just hear both sides” You are playing into the abusers’ hands. You are NOT being neutral, you are siding with the abuser.”
I would also like to point others towards the (Pagan) Community Statement on Religious Sexual Abuse, which writes:
“8. Yet we also recognize that real sexual abuse victims experience deep feelings of guilt and shame, and that they often struggle to admit that they have been abused. Their condition should not be made worse by a predisposition to doubt the validity of their claims. Nor should they be automatically counter-accused of having a vindictive intention, or of lying. We hold that anyone alleging sexual abuse should always be treated with compassion as a primary response, and that claims of sexual abuse should be handled with intelligence and concern for all.”
Statistics shows they’re not lying 98% of the time- and in a population exceeding 7 billion on our planet? The likelihood of you getting the one person in that 2% range is slim to none as an average person. But in the rare circumstance that an abuse allegation does prove to be false, what do we do then? On this issue I, again, agree with the (P)CSoRSA:
7. An accusation of sexual exploitation is a very serious matter. The accusation alone, even in the absence of evidence, can damage the reputation and the self esteem of good people. We therefore find that a false or vindictive accusation of sexual misconduct is but another form of sexual abuse.
Anyone who makes intentional and vindictive attempts to falsely or wrongfully accuse an individual of abuse- and whose accusations actually prove to be false upon examination– should likewise be ostracized from the community and treated as if they were an abuser themselves; the same steps should be taken against them as would other abusers. But never should we, as a community, look upon allegations with scepticism and the assumption that they are lying by proxy. To do so can only further damage our community and the victims of abuse.
Always believe the victim.
What do we do afterwards, though? Once the abuser has been outed, and we’ve followed the core 4 steps… Where do we go from there? That’s not always so clear cut, but the steps themselves tell you what to do. It’s mostly up to personal preference, however, how you’d like to continue.
But there’s still some things that need to be addressed; In the Klein case, I’ve heard numerous cries about “separating the man from the work”, and screams about how his work has value still and shouldn’t be discounted because of his “personal transgressions”. I’ve heard yelling about how his family still needs to be supported and that we’re only damaging them further by boycotting his products; so many cries from the starry-eyed.
First off, while I don’t condone or support purchasing problematic materials from problematic authors and known abusers? Even though I urge all of you not to continue buying Klein’s products, or products from other known abusers… If you still want to obtain their materials despite them being problematic, there are several manners to obtain a problematic individuals’ work which do not directly support abusers financially.
Used and prior-owned copies from second hand book stores are one option, where the proceeds go directly to the local business and do not directly count towards the sale of the book, nor the financial gain of the author; downloading them off the internet (when available and applicable) is another option that does not directly financially contribute to them or affect the sales numbers. There’s also the option of borrowing the material from other Pagans in possession of it, or even purchasing them from other Pagans.
Secondly, yes. I recognize that families still need support. And if you want to help, by all means do so. But send donations, offer friendship, solidarity, and support (without condoning the actions), offer services, etc. Again, there are hundreds of ways to support both the victims and abusers’ families during these times that do not require you purchase or otherwise involve contributing financially to them or seemingly condoning their actions.
And don’t use the “not everyone has money” argument against it, either. For one, there are multiple non-financial ways to support their families. For another, people who have the money to buy his book have the money to donate directly to his wife and kids instead of buying the book itself.
It has also been brought up that offering counseling is a “better solution” to amputating an outed, known, and proven abuser from the community completely. I want to talk about that too.
I do believe that counseling has benefits for those who struggle with abusive tendencies and show a sincere regret for their actions and a sincere need to change them. Helping a person seek help for abusive actions is something we should do, definitely… But as Shauna Knight writes:
I experience that sane, rational, logical people expect other people to behave like themselves. So on the various comments on blogs and Facebook posts when people are talking about the Kenny Klein issue, they are talking about a number of strategies that are useful for sane, rational people.
There are folks who are socially awkward, and we can work with them to say, “No, that’s not appropriate.” We can work with folks to explain consent culture, and I think that’s all worthwhile.
However, that still doesn’t protect us from the predators who either believe that there’s nothing wrong with what they are doing, or, who are acting in a compulsive way.
The Pendulum Swing, or, “Baby I’m Sorry, I’ll Change
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that one before. “Baby, I’ll get better. I’ll go to therapy.” “I’ll go to ____ anonymous.” “I’ll never do it again, I swear.” “I got you some flowers.”
Often an abuser goes in and out of the bad behavior, which is what keeps their partner in the destructive cycle. I’ve been there, I have one hell of a t-shirt. With Mark, he would promise to be better. He’d go to therapy, or to sex addicts anonymous. For a while it would be better…and then he’s start cheating again. Or other things.
And again, she writes in Part 3 of the same series:
Sometimes, an appropriate judgment might be that Person B can remain in the group if they consent to getting some form of help. However, be very cautious in this approach. Many people benefit from therapy, the right medications, or from AA or another program.
However, if you’re dealing with one of the major personality disorders, or someone who consistently goes off their bipolar medications, or with a sex offender…or any of the big abusive behaviors…these folks are very likely not going to respond to any treatment. In fact, many of these are considered untreatable.
Can People Change?
I believe that almost anyone can change. By my experience of people is, most won’t. This is what I mean when I say I’m an optimist with a broken heart. I want to believe that every single person can become better. But my dealings with Mark, and with others, helped me to understand that there are people way beyond my pay grade.
And when you find someone in your group who is a repeat abuser or any kind of predator, there’s only one real solution–amputate them from the group. Like a cancer, you have to remove them.
In other words, therapy is for the rational. Abusers are often compulsive, or intentional with no desire to change their pattern of behavior…. Not all types of abuse can be solved simply through therapy and counseling.
Therapy has its time and its place but it should not take precedence to removing their influence, it should happen alongside it. If someone has been proven an abuser then cutting them from the community should be a first priority. Offering them counseling or counseling them to seek help should be a step of that “amputation” if you think they might genuinely benefit from it.
Under no circumstances, however, do I believe that a proven and known abuser should remain within our community- nor do I believe they should be protected by it.
I am in full alignment with the views expressed in the transcriptions of TheGeekyBlonde’s video and the excerpts from the Community Statement on Religious Sexual Abuse found in this post: That we should support victims under all circumstances and take their tales seriously; out abusers and cut them off from our community; ensure that we continue to actively educate people of the dangers, the signs, etc; and work to make our community safer and lessen the chances of abuse and exploitation happening within our community.
We, the authors and signatories of this statement, commit ourselves to:
- Demonstrate by example a fully moral sexual spirituality;
- Vigorously entreat others to agree to the principles of this statement;
- Handle all accusations of sexual exploitation and misconduct with intelligence and compassion, for victims of real sexual harm, and for victims of false or vindictive accusations;
- Cooperate with the police when an incident of sexual abuse in our circles is under investigation;
- Help bring comfort, medical assistance, legal aid, and spiritual healing, to victims, as far as ability and opportunity may allow; and
- Help seekers find groups, circles, traditions, or individual teachers, whose practice involves as much or as little sexuality as the seeker feels comfortable exploring.
We voluntarily commit ourselves to this declaration, and we encourage others to commit themselves to it, whatever their path.
We remain, respectfully,
A community of Pagans.