Eyewitness accountsReporting on the investigation was made difficult by a lack of specific detail provided on record by interviewees, both alleged victims and supporters. A lack of specifics does not necessarily mean that an allegation is false, but can result in it not being substantiated by legal and journalistic standards, making it difficult, if not impossible, to report.
While most of those contacted for the TWH investigation did not supply detail, several former CAYA members did speak with TWH and provided comment.
Iris and Rowan are two former members of CAYA who agreed to speak on record. Iris was one of the founding Elderflowers, while Rowan was among the first initiates, dubbed Wildflowers. Rowan recalled that initially joining CAYA felt like “coming home.” To Iris, creating that sort of space was precisely what she was after in helping to found the group.
Rowan said that she “threw herself into the work” of CAYA, learning and serving, and that strengthened her friendship with Rabbit. “There were little flags which are easy to see in retrospect,” she said, signs which she might have taken as warnings, but did not at the time. These included “weird expectations of unquestioning loyalty” that “didn’t sit right” with her, but she dismissed those concerns.
“I should have trusted my instincts,” she said.
One guiding motto in CAYA, Rowan said, is “more than just work friends.” She admitted to TWH that CAYA was a group of people who not only worshiped together but also babysat, helped move, and generally formed a social sphere. That was exactly what she wanted.
However, both Rowan and Iris stated that Rabbit blurred the lines between friendship and being her subordinate. That made it difficult, by Rowan’s account, to “tease out the unhealthy parts” of the relationship.
What gradually unfolded, according to Rowan, was a transition from “we are all in this together with many leaders” to Rabbit being the only voice. She said that Rabbit had an influence “born of manipulation,” rather than actual authority.
They tended not to have friends outside the group simply because there was no time for other relationships, according to their accounts. When Iris did eventually leave, she said that she found herself cut off from all of her friends.
Rowan and Iris both agreed that the situation was not always problematic. Iris said that 2016 is the time frame when this type of targeting began to ramp up.
In 2017, Rowan and Iris, who were both on the council at the time, resigned from CAYA. According to both of their accounts, it was due to that “unhealthy” relationship. Iris was the first of the pair to resign, and Rowan said that she was then witness to what she called a smear campaign against Iris by Rabbit. This is one of points that led her to bring up her concerns to the elders council, she said.
Rowan and Iris also state that CAYA has no established protocols for addressing the type of abuse of which Rabbit has reportedly been accused. They said that they are skeptical that she has not been advised of the internal allegations. Rowan said that she gave specific permission for her emailed list of infractions to be shared with Rabbit.
Both Rowan and Iris have been speaking publicly about the situation, but they said that speaking publicly elicits strong feelings of guilt, and Iris explained that guilt is the reason it took her so long to leave.
Part of the guilt, they said, comes from the fact that the rituals and work done in CAYA did benefit people, and those individuals were getting the short end of the stick without having done anything to deserve it.
- Devin Hunter 22 March 2018
- Stephanie Ivy Whiteside 22 March 2018
- Jesamyn Angelica 22 March 2018
- Zafira Alexander 23 March 2018
- Rowan Nightshade 23 March 2018
- Stella Iris: Email to a reporter for The Wild Hunt 12 February 2018
- Stella Iris: Email to The Wild Hunt 25 March 2018