The WVC acknowledges that a growing number of people throughout the world are participating in ceremonies that use psychoactive substances. We recognize that these rituals can offer participants opportunities for deep healing and self-knowledge. Our community is also troubled by the fact that women who participate in these ceremonies have sometimes been the targets of sexual harassment and assault by shamans and other facilitators. Sadly, the abuse of women by people who present themselves as spiritual leaders is a very old problem that long predates the growing interest in the ceremonial use of these materials. People of all genders have been subjected to these violations.
There is no firm data about the frequency of this misuse of power and many victims are reluctant to publicly discuss their experiences. The WVC is also keenly aware that stories about these types of violations are sometimes sensationalized by the media and those who seek to profit from these accounts. We also make a firm distinction between the regulation of psychoactive substances and practices that could support the safety of those participating in these ceremonies. Some psychoactive substances are legal in certain countries and considered an expression of indigenous medicinal knowledge and religious freedom. Court rulings in the United States and elsewhere acknowledge that the use of these substances is protected from prosecution on religious grounds.
Traditional means of regulation for the ceremonial use of some substances have been in place for many years. Since existing laws against sexual assault are already present in countries where these ceremonies take place, we do not endorse additional government regulations, standards, or controls imposed by perhaps well-meaning groups. History has shown that these measures are often turned against users and producers of such materials and often do not reflect the values of indigenous cultures which have a deep understanding of these substances.
While we do not support additional regulatory frameworks, sexual assault is a crime regardless of the context. Everyone has a right to be treated with respect while participating in these ceremonies. We support accountability for those who lead these ceremonies and measures taken by participants to proactively help secure their own safety. While many shamans and other healers act with great integrity, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from those that do not. Below is a list of recommendations that may help you effectively prepare for these experiences and reduce the potential for unsafe encounters.