Herbal Education Inc. (HEI) has always valued our community's safety and well-being. The Midwest Herb Fest program clearly states that “Harassing or offensive comments about gender, sexuality, race, religion, relationship status, political views, body size, disability, or any other topic are not appropriate for this event. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form, and the aggressor will be immediately asked to leave the event.” So why the need for an updated Safety Policy?
Simply put, we needed to put a policy in place that would allow us to track complaints. The new policy will allow HEI to:
Track recurrent problematic behaviors that require more community education
Track problematic individuals and see if there are patterns
Have written records of complaints if ever requested by law enforcement, or organizers of other events asking for references
Have written records available to any future board members in case of change of leadership; to ensure a longer institutional memory
Show our participants that we take their complaints seriously, even if the incident or infraction is too minor to take any immediate action
Root out idle gossip in favor of formal, documented complaints. As a board, we will not take any action based on rumors but only on actual first-hand reports.
Our goal was to create a structure for preventing, reporting, and responding to threats such as sexual misbehavior (including harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault), physical, mental and emotional abuse (including assault, bullying, harassment, exclusion and inclusion issues, and hate speech), and physical safety issues (including privacy, accessibility, infrastructure, substance abuse). These will be defined below.
As Healers coming from a diverse wealth of traditions and backgrounds, we are very tolerant of other people’s viewpoints and different codes of ethics. We do not have one set of ethics that can guide us in making decisions and creating boundaries. We respect others’ beliefs and practices in their own faith groups and homes, but in order to facilitate a group event composed of people with many different views, we find it necessary to provide strong guidelines that all participants must follow in order to ensure the wellbeing of all our participants.
As a registered non-profit organization, the first priority of HEI is to obey all Indiana laws. If it’s illegal in Indiana, it is against HEI’s safety policy and will be referred to law enforcement. But second, we feel that Healers, especially community leaders, teachers, and organizers, must be held to a higher standard, and therefore this policy includes some actions that are not illegal but are unethical and antithetical to our understanding of bodily autonomy, equal rights and equal access, and respect for each other’s beliefs and boundaries. Therefore even legal behavior, if unwelcome and against our policies, may lead to asking a person to leave our events and/or to being barred from future participation at our events.
In this document we will briefly define behaviors that are not welcome at our events; describe our complaint system; define consequences of unwelcome behavior; and address the involvement of minors at our events.
Definitions of Unwelcome Behavior
Criminal: sexual assault and rape, statutory rape, stalking, violating restraining orders, and drugging victims in order to take advantage of their incapacitation.
Criminal regarding minors: sexual activity with children under the age of consent (16); sexual activity with minors under the age of 18 when the adult is in a position of authority over them (teachers, speakers, mentors, clergy, etc.); inviting or persuading a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity with anyone else.
Non-criminal: unwelcome or unwanted: harassment, lewd comments, sharing or taking of photographs of a sexual or private nature, physical contact or groping, invasion of personal space, and any ongoing sexual pursuit or harassing flirting. If it makes a person uncomfortable and the antagonist has been asked to stop already, it is an infringement regardless of actual physical harm. If it is wanted or welcome, it is not an infringement.
HEI does not tolerate any form of sexual misbehavior and will take action to either educate or bar violators from its events. HEI strongly believes in the principles of enthusiastic consent between legal adults. “No” means no, “ummmm…” means no, “not right now” means no, “I’m not OK with this” means no… but “YES!!” and “omigods yes!” means yes. Our goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves and their sexuality but when told no or “not interested,” to be respectful of that person’s boundaries and wishes. No one has a free pass to persist in unwelcome sexual advances. Our correlating goal is for all participants to be confident in expressing their boundaries and wishes and speaking up when uncomfortable.
Physical, mental and emotional abuse
Physical abuse: assault, threats of bodily injury, nonconsensual rough play, forcing a person into any physical situation against their will through use of force or threats.
Mental and emotional abuse: intimidation, harassment, bullying, personal insulting that is specifically to make the target feel ill at ease, angry, or sad; the express exclusion of certain classes of people based on gender or sex, sexual orientation, race, belief system, age (except in the case of minors when such activity would be prohibited by law to them), or political affiliation from participating in any HEI events.
Our aim is not to shut down dialogue altogether. Constructive discussions on thorny topics are welcome, but only so far as they are clearly labeled as such in the program so participants can decide for themselves whether such issues would be triggering for them or not. All such discussions/panels are expected to be conducted with respect for all parties involved.
Our goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere where no one has to fear for their immediate safety, be insulted for their skin color, their body, or their choices, be barred from attending certain events that are ultimately hosted by HEI.
In shorthand: we are committed to making our events a safe space. No hate speech. Racism will not be tolerated. Sexism will not be tolerated. Transphobia will not be tolerated. Intimidating or violent speech will not be tolerated. Ageism in any direction will not be tolerated. Ableism will not be tolerated. No bullying of any kind will be tolerated.
Physical safety issues
Physical safety is: the right to feel safe from bodily harm and unwanted substances, and the right to personal property. Anyone impinging on these rights is violating our policy.
Illegal behavior will not be tolerated in event spaces, including but not limited to: use of illegal drugs or substances, theft, fraud, domestic abuse, violating restraining orders, etc. People breaking laws will be asked to leave; if they do not leave on their own accord, law enforcement will be called.
HEI Complaint Process
HEI is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all participants and will respond effectively and proactively to complaints. If someone is putting their hands on you or speaking to you in a way that is inappropriate or uncomfortable or threatening, a member of the HEI board need to know, so that we can take it seriously and take some course of action, even if that’s just listening. If either the board member or the participant feels the behavior was problematic enough, the board member will record a formal complaint by asking all pertinent questions and writing them down on our complaint intake form.
Formal complaints will be recorded in a private room if more privacy is desired. Details will include full name or badge name of the person whose behavior was inappropriate; their physical description (to avoid mistaken identity, badge swap, etc.); their behavior in full context; location, date and time of behavior; names of any other witnesses of the behavior; and any physical evidence on the person of the complainant.
We all know bullying and harassment when we see it: it is meant to be intimidating and unwelcoming. However, when it comes to sexuality there can be a gray area as to what is welcome and what is not, depending on both people in the situation. Therefore, if the complaint is about inappropriate sexual behavior, the board member will ask whether the aggressor was asked to stop the behavior. We want to stress that this does not reflect on the credibility of the complainant —we do not wish to engage in victim blaming—but rather to discern whether the fact that the behavior was unwanted and unwelcome was understood by the aggressor in the first place so that we know whether further education is required.
Since certain people may be unaware of social cues for a variety of reasons, we must stress that when a behavior is unwelcome or unwanted, the target of the behavior should clearly communicate that the person is crossing the target’s boundaries and ask them to stop if they are able to do so.
Therefore we encourage all participants to draw their own boundaries and communicate them firmly and effectively, no matter the time, person and circumstance. For instance, just because you’re drinking alcohol does not mean you are not able to withdraw or say no; just because the aggressor is a teacher, public figure, or in some position of authority does not mean you must remain silent. Everyone has a different comfort zone and the best thing we can all do is to be completely clear and cognizant of our own. If you are shy, introverted, or uncomfortable about saying no, you may ask for help from a friend, volunteer, or board member, either in communicating your boundaries or in building your own assertiveness.
If a person had knowledge or was told that his or her behavior was unwanted and unwelcome and continued the behavior, that is sexual misbehavior as defined above and should be filed in a formal complaint.
Both complainant and board member will sign the complaint. The person against whom the complaint was lodged has the right to know what is contained in the complaint, but the complainant may request anonymity, and his or her name will not be given to the person.
Consequences of Formal Complaints
Our main goal in taking complaints is to endow our organization with the ability to remove persons of concern from positions of trust in our community, even if they have not formally been convicted of a crime, when there have been multiple credible, documented allegations of misconduct made. If someone has been accused of a crime, it is not our place to declare them guilty or innocent; but whether we continue to trust a person after reported instances of misbehavior and allow them access to our events, putting our participants’ safety in question, is a different matter. It bears repeating that HEI will not take any action based on rumors or guilt by association, but only on actual reports of victims and witnesses who were directly involved.
Here are our formal process steps after a complaint has been generated:
Board members will meet to assess the complaint as quickly as possible (during the event or immediately afterwards) and determine whether this is the first complaint against the individual, or if there have been previous related complaints.
They will determine the level of risk to see if the individual should be immediately ejected or barred from future events; any witnesses to the incident as identified by the complainant will be sought out for input here.
If the complaint is an isolated one or minor enough not to cause serious harm, two or three board members will have a talk with the individual named in the complaint, behind shut doors in complete confidentiality. The board members will ask for their side of the story, whether they are aware their behavior was deemed inappropriate or unwelcome, and assess whether the person can learn from this situation (i.e. social cues, etc.) They may be asked to read the definitions of unwelcome behavior as detailed above in our policy. The board members will inform the offensive person that their behavior going forward will be monitored and further complaints may lead to ejection from the event.
If the complaint represents a clear violation of our policies AND either recurred in several independent similar complaints (all showing a particular pattern of behavior, whether sexual harassment, bullying, physical assault, and so on), has been corroborated by witnesses, is physically provable (i.e. video or audio recording of incident) OR is admitted to by the perpetrator; then HEI will immediately ask the individual to leave and make note of this decision in our records. No money will be refunded.
Following the event, the board will discuss whether the individual will be welcome at future events.
In case of formal complaints of criminal behavior, HEI will work with the complainant in contacting law enforcement. HEI is not and should not be a substitute for the legal process when it comes to illegal behavior. Our own internal process of discernment as described above should not be understood to mean that we take it upon ourselves to determine the veracity of claims of criminal sexual abuse, domestic abuse, violence, theft, etc. or the guilt or innocence of our participants. However, we will retain records of the facts as reported to us that can be provided to law enforcement if requested, if criminal activity is alleged. Persons accused of criminal behavior will be asked to leave, but may be eligible to attend future events if there have been no other similar complaints against them in the past and they are exonerated of the alleged crime via the legal system.
HEI’s Policy on Minors Attending or Volunteering at Midwest Herb Fest
Individuals under the age of 18 must have the written permission of a parent or guardian to attend, and individuals under the age of 16 must be accompanied by their parent or guardian. This guardian need not be the legal guardian of the minor, but they must be an adult over the age of 21 who is willing and able to take responsibility for the minor for the entire duration of their participation in Midwest Herb Fest. While the parent/guardian may not necessarily accompany them every minute of the day, the parent/guardian accepts full responsibility for their child 100% of the time, as Midwest Herb Fest does not offer any child care. If not in attendance, the minor’s parent must provide contact information for the duration of the event in case of emergency.
Teen volunteers must be supervised by an adult volunteer at all times during their shifts, although again it must be stressed that this does not constitute “child care” but only applies to those mature enough to volunteer in a productive manner under supervision. HEI strives to ensure that teenaged volunteers will never be left alone with one unrelated adult in a private location.
Child abuse can happen to teens as well as small children. Child abuse generally covers physical and/or emotional harm, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence, and exploitation. If a child is in immediate danger, notify one of the Organizers in Headquarters immediately so that 911 may be called. When a complaint of abuse or neglect of a legal minor is disclosed per our complaint system detailed above, or where there is reasonable cause to suspect such abuse or neglect, or a person has knowledge of, or observes a child being subjected to, conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child, the person to whom the disclosure is made or who suspects such abuse shall immediately report the suspicion and the information on which it is based. Under Indiana law, members of clergy, nurses, and healthcare professionals are mandated reporters of child abuse; we hope that everyone participating in our events will act as voluntary reporters if need be.
HEI will have full details of how and where to report child abuse available at all times in our Headquarters. Any incidents should be reported orally within 24 hours, in written form within 72 hours. We ask that any of our participants who are mandated reporters and are required to report evidence notify the HEI board if they haven’t already (i.e. if the report is not being made by a HEI board member). Full disclosure of details is not required, but helpful in meeting our goals of becoming a safer organization, and will be treated with complete confidentiality.
Midwest Herb Fest’s Ongoing Goals
To provide more education and information to participants at our events about consent culture
To guide the socially awkward among us into appropriate behavior, as a group
To treat all complaints with respect
To open and engage in further dialog around any issues that arise to cause friction in our events, whether as part of these guidelines or something else
To create a space that feels safe and welcoming to all people, of all races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs
To ensure ongoing transparency around these guidelines and issues
These guidelines shall be reviewed every year at our Annual Meeting and updated as needed. These guidelines shall also be updated at any time in the future if Midwest Herb Fest or HEI ever creates or employs its own security team, in order to reflect their priorities, responses, responsibilities, and limitations.
Midwest Herb Fest and Herbal Education Inc. would like to extend our deep gratitude to Twin Cities Pagan Pride and Paganicon, whose Safety Policy was of great inspiration to us in creating this document. Indeed, we think they did such a wonderful job with it that we largely kept it intact, making only a few changes to reflect our different demographics and nature of our events. Special thanks to Wendy Seidl, Chairman of the Board of Twin Cities Pagan Pride and Paganicon for the kind permission to share the fruits of their labor.
If you have any comments or feedback on our Safety Policy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you