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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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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Tuesday, 08 April 2014

    The fact that this idea comes from outside the community -- yet also reflects the "law of threefold return" which is popular within Paganism -- makes it so much more powerful. We can safely discard any cries of, "but only Wiccans believe in that!" and acknowledge that some patterns reach far beyond what we Pagans quibble about with one another.

    If this suggestion is adopted more widely, I think it will make a difference.

  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal Wednesday, 09 April 2014

    Although it is an interesting idea, and perhaps a good starting place for a conversation, I see an exceedingly sliperly slope. Who is to store these documents? Who gets to see them? How long are they held? Do we oust someone for "3 strikes" if each offense is 10 years apart? If anyone attempts to follow this idea I would strongly suggest consulting an attorney first. There are many, significant, legal issues here that could get you tangled up with the courts when all you are trying to do is to keep people safe.

    This is a good concept but, alas, it amounts to taking the law into our own hands. I feel it is a better solution to report any incidents to law enforcement. They are trained to deal with these situations and if someone is suspected of doing something against the law then it is our duty to bring it to the attention of law enforcement. If it is a simple case of someone who "feels weird" about how someone is looking at them, we should not be making records that can unfairly haunt someone and impact them without any form of due process.

    If someone has had inappropriate sexual contact with you or ANY child, please report it to the appropriate authorities to prevent others from being harmed. I fear that this suggested approach would simply result in well-documented Witch hunts rather than avoiding them. It is critical that we address concerns about predators in our Community, just like all other communities do, but we also have to remember that those accused have legal rights. We have to protect everyone in our Community, including those accused of inappropriate conduct.

    Our Community has not been taken over by groups of underground sexual predators. We are like any other religious community and we have to watch out for all of our members, but we are not more preyed upon than other groups. Let's keep the legal process in mind in all of these discussions.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Wednesday, 09 April 2014

    This is an article primarily focused on starting the conversation. I agree with your points in your response to it, and I think all of those factors need to be considered, however I also think that just relying on law enforcement isn't necessarily as productive as it could be. Yes law enforcement should be brought in, but I also think as a community we need to be more proactive in addressing such situations. The questions you raise are goods one to consider in terms of how we deal with such matters.

  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal Wednesday, 09 April 2014

    I agree. I work for the Judicial Department and I know that our system is far from perfect, but at this time it is the best course. You are also right when you say it is not enough. I think (at the moment) that nerves are too raw in some quarters to consider all of the aspects of this complex issue. I think that the awareness that we have at the moment may lead to good ideas as long as we remain rational and look at a variety of perspectives. It is wonderful that people can have a safe discourse about a sensitive issue.

    Speaking as a Guardian, taking advantage of a child or vulnerable adult is outside the bounds of my imagination. The idea that we ever overlook anyone who is endangered in this way makes me very angry, even though it happens in all communities. The greatest tool we have is Community as long as we have these open lines of communication and we use them.

    I appreciate your wisdom and look forward to the day when we have some solid solutions to this problem that has been with humanity for as far back as we can look.

    A conversation is the best place to start.

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