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Crisis Response, Question 8

Discuss an example of a crisis situation to which you have responded (this may be a crisis you have personally experienced or an experience in which you tried to help someone else in crisis). Reflect upon your response to the crisis in your example, and explain what you found effective, as well as how you could have improved your response to this situation. (minimum 200 words)

At Summerland in 2008, we learned that one of our members who was in a relationship was physically abusing his girlfriend. We had no foreknowledge of this, and at the time there was very little training in the Grove about how to deal with issues like this one. I, myself, had never had any training in crisis response or counseling, and I had just begun reading on the latter topic.

Fortunately for us, other clergy at the festival did have that training, and we quickly deferred the situation to them. In fact, my Grove did that before I even found out. Once I was brought in and informed of the situation, I ended up dealing directly with our Grove member for most of the weekend. My aim was simply to listen, to tell him that it was not okay, and to be very clear that what he’d done was not acceptable in our Grove. Our Senior Druid at the time (Seamus) and I had a desire to work with the couple (who still insisted on being together), but to do so outside the Grove. They were given homework and were told that they needed to do that work in order to stay with the Grove.

In a later meeting, where Seamus and I met with the couple, I provided her a domestic abuse hotline and asked her to contact that immediately if anything happened, and not to contact me first. I told her that I would be happy to talk to her after she had taken care of contacting other, more appropriate help for such a situation (I was clear that I was not the best person to call first). Other contact with him has been polite but distant and consistent: when he asked about renewing his Grove membership, he was told to speak to the Senior Druid before he could pay dues.

Since then, the Grove has become more firm: we have understood that it is not our job to “fix” the abuser, but rather that it is our job to be available to him only if he shows real change to us. It appears to me now that the “homework” that we asked him to do was perhaps optimistic, and wasn’t useful to the couple (as they did not do it), but it did benefit the Grove as a non-confrontational way of preventing his return. In hindsight, we should have asked him to leave the festival as soon as we learned of the issue, and probably had lower post-festival contact.

In the end, we did work through this to the best of our ability, and we have been fortunate that the situation did not affect the Grove. I think that we responded in a generally positive manner, though there were things that could have improved.


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