Rowan

Friday, December 25, 2009

Question

I am a lesbian pagan who is having some trouble with a recent experience. I went to a ritual with a heterosexual woman friend who is also Wiccan. I was aware before I went that the ritual would be conducted skyclad (nude) but was reassured that my limits would be respected. Before the rite, I spoke with the High Priest and was again reassured that I need not participate in anything that would make me uncomfortable.

Once the ritual started, the men and women were paired up by the High Priest and Priestess. There wasn't any time to have a long conversation but I hastily whispered to this guy that I didn't want to be touched. But I didn't mind holding hands. He nodded and most of what followed was fine. But then we came to a part of the ritual where we were supposed to bless each other. I jerked back, but this guy insisted on giving me the five-fold kiss. He held me in place to do it, and I was so angry and scared that I froze up.

After the ritual, I broke away from him as soon as I could and complained to the people who organized the ritual. They promised to talk to this man, but I didn't want to be there to listen to it. I left as soon as I could get my friend to break away. I told her on the ride home what had happened, and she was very apologetic.

If everyone was so nice about this, why can't I let it go? I feel so angry and scared. I keep reliving this incident and getting upset all over again. I don't want to talk to my friend and I have even been wondering if I want to drop out of my home coven, which is women-only. (We also do our rituals sky-clad.)

What the hell? I didn't get raped. But I think I am traumatized. How can I get over this? I don't want this one creep to make me feel bad for the rest of my life.

Answer

For Wiccans, sacred space is a sanctuary. Granted, you were taking a risk by attending a mixed-gender ritual, but you were clear about your limits, and assumed that you were in a safe place. The fact that this happened is especially upsetting since Wicca is supposed to be woman-centered. Sadly, I've encountered segments of the Really Old Time Religion that are both homophobic and sexist.

Violation is violation. Penetration isn't necessary for a sexual assault to take place. You are still having strong feelings about this because your individual sanctity was trashed. This asshole took advantage of the fact that he is bigger and stronger than you to force physical contact upon you. It is actually really normal to feel scared and pissed-off for quite a while after something like this happens.

It's also normal to want to avoid circumstances that might trigger reliving the memory. Hence your queasiness about returning to your women's circle. But I strongly, strongly urge you to convene an emergency meeting of your coven and explain what happened to them. You need their healing energy. They could suspend the clothing-optional aspect of your celebrations until you once more felt comfortable approaching your Goddess as She made you.

While I don't want to blame you for what happened, I wonder if you are blaming yourself. You kept quiet. You didn't protest or struggle. In fact, you would have been justified in disrupting the proceedings. It would have been okay for you to scream, kick, shove, eye-gouge, holler, swear, and otherwise carry on like a wild thing. It might help you to feel safe again if you find a physical way to express your strength and resistance.

While the leaders of this organization promised to talk to the guy who crossed the line, you weren't a participant in that conversation, so you don't really know what happened. And no reparations were made to you. Further conversation with them might be necessary. If you don't feel up to doing it yourself, ask someone else to serve as your intermediary or proxy. At a bare minimum, you deserve an apology. It would also be nice to know he got drummed out of the coven, and he'll never have sex again.

Finally, let's raise the issue of trauma that you may or may not have endured in the past. If you were ever molested as a child or victimized later in life, an event like this can set off echoes or ripples that multiply the effect. If you need to talk to a therapist, don't hesitate to find one who can give you a safe place to vent about this and explore ways to reclaim your equilibrium. Designing a ritual or asking someone else to create one for you could also be really helpful. I send you non-toxic and completely appropriate, hands-off blessings.