June 30, 2014

Further to Go, Pagan Community

So, the information that Martin Breen, husband of Marion Zimmer Bradley, was a pedophile, has been very public since 1999, when Bradley died and an SFF author published about it. It was known in some circles before then, too, but less well-known; availability of the internet in 99 plus the publicity around Bradley’s death definitely spread it around much more widely. There have also been, for many years, rumors that Bradley herself was physically and/or sexually abusive of her own children as well.

Now, reacting to a piece on Tor.com cheerfully commemorating Bradley’s birthday, her daughter Moira Greyland has come forward to publicly state for the first time that her mother began molesting her at the age of three, as well as being “cruel and violent” (direct quote, not scare quotes). The story at Wild Hunt also has links to all of the above stuff. I’m not going to replicate the work.

Bradley, of course, wrote The Mists of Avalon, which has been hugely influential in pagan communities and introduced many people to certain neopagan ideas. (She was also a groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy author, and there’s a whole parallel conversation about all of this going on in those communities, some of which is linked to from WH, which I’m not even getting into.) Her work meant and means a huge amount to a great many people for many years, so of course this is a whole thing now. She was also a pagan herself for some years, although I don’t believe she said so publicly until after she’d converted back to Episcopalianism or whatever it was.

I have, so far, not dug into most of the discussions about this (though I probably will), but at least at Wild Hunt (where the article itself is quite good), I’m noticing that there are fewer people saying the incredibly awful and stupid shit that characterized the last couple of rounds of people noticing that, holy shit, pagans can be pedophiles and child abusers. That doesn’t mean it’s gone, though, and rather than flinging around cuss words over at Wild Hunt, I thought I’d bring it back here.

Here are three quotes, from three different commenters:

As for the actual abuse case, maintaining a token amount of skepticism until I actually check out the evidence, myself.

The “evidence”? The fucking evidence? The evidence is that the actual fucking victim, who has absolutely nothing to gain and honestly rather a lot to fear, because victims who rat out prominent and beloved figures get treated like absolute shit, has come forward to say that this happened, after years of rumors and speculation that such abuse had occurred. We aren’t even talking about Breen’s misdeeds or Bradley’s knowledge of them, or the fucking sworn statements from court records in which she actually said she knew about them, we are talking about what Bradley herself did. And what the fuck else other evidence can there be, at this remove? Or is that this commenter’s point, that Greyland’s word can’t possibly be sufficient to… what? Not convict her. Bradley’s dead, and it’s unlikely Greyland would be bringing charges at this point anyway. For this person to simply believe Greyland? What the fuck? Why would you not believe it, unless you just flat out don’t want to. Now, there’s a great reason.

What I'm trying to say is that this article though good forms a link that is dangerous. It allows the RR to point at pagans and claim we are the monsters they have fears us to be. Yes Bradley and her Husband need to be seen for the sick people they were and condemned for the pain they inflicted on the victims of their abuse. She used her fame to gain access to children and that is a horrid thing, but like all pedophile she used what she had to get what she wanted.

Aaaaaaand we’re back to this reputation shit again.

All communities have problems with child abuse, sexual and otherwise. All of them. What we will be judged on by the public is how we handle those problems. The Catholic Church, that venerable institution that has been a world power for over a fucking millenium, is taking a huge hit to its reputation for sheltering and covering up child molesters. Many individual churches of other Christian denominations are also rightfully coming under fire for doing much the same on a smaller scale. We absolutely must not go down that road. We must do better. To fail is to fail our children, to damage them hugely. It will also, as a secondary consequence, hurt us far more in the public eye, but that’s not the important thing.

What is important, always, is to protect our children. That’s a simple moral truth. When we ignore or cover this shit up, we are continuing the harm to the ones already abused, and allowing more children to be abused. We send the message to child molesters that they can do that in our communities, that our gatherings and homes are safe hunting grounds for them.

I’m sorry, why is that a good thing?

After reading through the transcript, I am appalled by MZB's lack of concern about her husband's molesting of young teens. But I admit I am not totally surprised by it. These abuses occurred many decades ago, during a time when our culture was reappraising many boundaries but our culture eventually came to understand how wrong sex between an adult and a young teen is. I am disappointed that she did not understand the depth of harm her husband was causing and especially that years later she had failed to evolve in her ethics on the sexual abuse of children.

Wow. No. Fuck you.

First of all, did you fucking miss the bit where Breen’s rapes are old, old news, and that the actual fucking topic of conversation here is Bradley’s own physical and sexual abuses of her daughter? That Bradley was actually violent, which cannot possibly be dismissed by your bullshit “ohhh, but it was a different time” excuses, which are contemptible and morally corrupt regardless. You are fucking cherry-picking which bits you’re paying attention to in an attempt to dismiss all of them with handwringing. What the fuck is wrong with you, you horrible fucking person?


OK, pagan community, you’re getting better, and at least you’re arguing with these shitheads, but seriously, there is further to go. Let’s make it absolutely plain that child abuse, child sexual abuse, and any excuses for or covering up of the same are wrong and will not be tolerated in our communities.

In that vein, Wild Hunt has an older guest post on how to respond to abuse in our communities, written by an actual expert on the topic, a psychologist specializing in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Go read it. I strongly recommend the section on mandated reporters, and getting training in those requirements for our leaders, clergy, and event staff, and the one on creating ombudsmen. I do not agree with the part about not “trading in rumor,” but it’s a very good piece.