3SC & ISTA Joint Statement Regarding Harm & Reform at ISTA

This joint statement is the result of a collaboration between ISTA (International School of Temple Arts) and 3SC (Safer Sex-Positive & Spiritual Communities, a volunteer organization that emerged from the “Issues with ISTA” Facebook Group), consisting of more than 30 hours of conversations with Alexis Dixon, a neutral third-party mediator. Both parties worked on a volunteer basis with 3SC selecting the mediator and ISTA covering the costs.

Alongside the mediated conversations, both parties have engaged in a significant process of research and inquiry, which has included receiving feedback from participants, developing processes for accountability and repair, and upgrading our ability and capacity to listen and respond to students, particularly those who have not been happy with their experience. While we hope to have gained a comprehensive perspective on the current situation, we also recognize that the work of self-inquiry and improving systems is never complete.

What we found is that, while ISTA has served its participants largely well, ISTA trainings have also resulted in unintended harm for some participants. These cases have shown the need for both a systems upgrade and a broader culture shift. Moreover, ISTA recognizes that, in the past, it has sometimes responded to criticism with arrogance and protectiveness. Moving forward ISTA’s commitment is to embody more the values of humility and compassion, and have that reflected in the actions of its facilitators and leadership.

ISTA recognizes that facilitators are often in positions of power that must be matched with an equally high level of accountability. As of the writing of this statement, several ISTA staff are engaged in a public accountability process, ISTA has improved its incident report forms, and it has appointed a third-party mediation service for participants who need additional support.

Both ISTA and 3SC believe that these shifts, while not eliminating the risk inherent in this kind of work, will create a better safety net for those who choose to place their trust in ISTA.

3SC regards what has been accomplished thus far as both extremely significant and a work in progress. This statement is the beginning of a new phase for our communities and the closure of the work we have been in for the past 18 months.

In closing, while there has certainly been friction and disagreements between 3SC and ISTA, we firmly believe that we are allies in the struggle against a sex-negative culture that disempowers people through sexual shame and denial. Our ideas may clash, but our purposes are aligned.

Sincerely,

ISTA Mediation Team (KamalaDevi McClure, Raffaello Manacorda, Rich Priddis and Crystal Dawn Morris) and 3SC Mediation Team (Lalita Diaz, Cara Cordoni, Dave Booda)

For more information about the accountability process and other upgrades being made within ISTA, please visit: https://ista.life/accountability-process

For more information about 3SC (Safer Sex-Positive & Spiritual Communities), please visit http://3sc.community/

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