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The Rule of 3 and how we can use it in our Community
The Pagan community is going through a period of upheaval around the issue of sexual predators in the community. It's not an easy topic and as the shock of recent events falls away, we're left with a question of, "What do we now?" In a recent discussion on Pagan Musings Podcast, I suggested that one action the community could take involves documenting situations where non-consensual sexual activities have been reported. In such cases, it can devolve into a he said, she said scenario, with neither side able to conclusively prove what happened. When this occurs, its important to have a process in place that protects everyone, while still allowing for the possibility that the offending person made a mistake, as opposed to consciously doing something offensive. By documenting such situations, it makes it easier to track what is happen and do something about it before it blows up into an even more harmful situation than it may already be. Actually, this process of documentation can apply to any type of infraction that occurs at a pagan convention or festival, but it does require that people organizing the event be willing to take on the task of documenting whatever has occurred, keeping it in a database, and also sharing it with other organizers and leaders in the community. This may seem like a lot to take on, but I think it would also help to cut down on behavior that is harming members of the community.
Recently I was reading Romancing the Brand, which is a book about marketing. However, there's an interesting rule in marketing and customer service: The rule of 3. The way the rule of 3 works is if you hear about an issue, person, problem, etc. from 3 different sources, then you take it seriously because it means there's a problem. If we were to apply this rule of 3 to our community, through documentation and through the understanding that an issue shouldn't be buried or ignored if it continues to happen, what this would allow us to do is effectively monitor situations before they got out of hand. The rule of 3 provides enough verifiable information that we can't continue to put our heads in the sand and ignore what's happening. The rule of 3 also establishes that a pattern of behavior is happening and not being changed, even though concerns have been expressed.
The rule of 3 can allow our community to proactively address problematic issues by showing a pattern of behavior that needs to be addressed in a manner that protects the community over the offender. At the same time, the rule of 3 provides a person a chance (2 actually) to change their behavior, to address the problem...which sometimes is possible to do. Sometimes a person makes a mistake or has a realization that causes them to conclusively change their lives and actions. The rule of 3 allows for that without tolerating continuing behavior that harms people.
These are just my suggestions. I think regardless of what actions we take as a community, we need to take some type of action that addresses behavior that is harmful to the community and members of the community. This isn't about making a witch hunt happen, but rather developing processes and procedures that respect everyone, while not privileging one person over the other. Such processes and procedures become a proactive solution that nips a problem in the bud instead of supporting it and then reactively responding to it, when we can't ignore it any longer. Our community needs to take a proactive approach to addressing problems like the issue of sexual predation, because in doing that we show that the priority is on the safety of everyone, the happiness of everyone, as opposed to the enabling of behavior that is harmful to members of our community.
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