A Testimony from People Who Know Stephen Reid
We are a group of friends of Stephen Reid, who believe deep reflection and change are most likely achieved in an atmosphere of compassion and support. This statement was written without Stephen's input.
We acknowledge there is much truth to these past allegations, and the pain that people in the Seeds of Solidarity collective have suffered is real. We believe that the movement of revealing truth and confronting abuses by the powerful is a necessary force in the world. We understand that the Seeds of Solidarity collective feels Stephen has abused his position of power and needs to be held to account. We support an accountability process and hope to move the conversation towards reconciliation and healing.
We understand and accept there is a need for deep reflection and listening to the allegations by Stephen, his friends and community. Given that the allegations are being discussed widely on social media we felt an immediate response was appropriate, to allow those unfamiliar with Stephen and the context of these allegations a more complete understanding.
Most of the allegations relate to Stephen’s role as initiator of co-created Burning Man inspired gatherings, and as a former leader of social change organisations, including The Psychedelic Society. Some of the allegations include:
Before these allegations were released, the anonymous collective offered Stephen a right of reply, which can be viewed here. Stephen’s reply acknowledges where previous hurt was caused and outlines the measures he has taken to learn and grow from his mistakes over the past five years. These include seeking one-to-one therapy, attending intimacy trainings, stepping back from leadership positions, and taking extensive steps to establish cooperative structures to share power in gatherings and organisations he initiated.
His reply also offers more nuance on each allegation, and generally presents a picture of a human, who like all of us, has many flaws and blindspots and has made mistakes. We believe Stephen is taking responsibility and has been making a concerted effort to change. We thank the Seeds of Solidarity collective for publishing his response alongside the allegations.
There are a number of serious allegations made against Stephen and a pattern of past behaviour that we believe deserve scrutiny and full accountability.
We feel it is important to separate these from hearsay, descriptions of Stephen’s mannerisms and eccentricities, and critiques of the wider culture in alternative communities that clearly cannot be put down to Stephen alone.
The allegations are nuanced, including the rape allegation, and his relationship with LB. We do not seek to arbitrate this and we encourage people to read both their testimonies. LB froze during intimacy and was not able to communicate that they wanted to stop, while Stephen didn’t pick up on their internal shift. Stephen says there was verbal consent at several stages and rejects the characterisation of this interaction as rape.
Another key allegation is that Stephen abused his position of power as a facilitator on a Psychedelic Experience weekend by having sex with one of the participants. The person in question, Stefana Bosse, has issued a statement that indicates she does not perceive herself as a victim in this interaction.
Stephen offered to engage in a mediation process with the group’s members, which, according to Seeds of Solidarity collective, was declined because they said they had pursued mediations with Stephen before and found them unsatisfactory. Our experience of Stephen in recent years indicates that he is increasingly open to meaningful mediation and feedback on his behaviour, and has made significant changes to how he interacts and listens to others. To our knowledge, Stephen has only had one mediation with one of the fifteen members of the group and no other members have sought a mediation, learning or accountability process with Stephen or via any of his friends and colleagues. We hope there will be space for this in the future.
Stephen is an extraordinary and unusual character. He seems wired in a different way, moves very fast in the world, and can unintentionally cause hurt without recognising it until after the fact. When people find the courage to raise this with him, they have sometimes been unsatisfied with the emotional depth he shows, which some believe is a consequence of his neurodivergence.
As people who know and have worked with him for many years, many have had to have ongoing difficult feedback conversations with him about this, which he takes seriously. Those of us who work closely with him have seen a dramatic change in the past few years, and it’s still unfinished. Change takes time.
The gatherings referred to in the allegations were experimental spaces that offered opportunities for many people to explore the boundaries of connection, intimacy, mind-altering substances, and spiritual growth. They take place within a wider environment that is still getting to grips with intersectionality, neurodivergence, consent, colonialism and general in and out group dynamics.
The co-created gatherings referred to were non-commercial. They were both large events that required some formal duty of care, and an extended friendship group having a wild party. While Stephen often initiated the gatherings at the beginning, they were always co-led by an organising team and co-created by everyone attending. In those early days, we were a bunch of young friends making it up as we went along, using the best group processes we discovered in activism and community organising. Over time, the gatherings included more collective safety measures that tried to reflect our emerging understanding around intersectionality, consent, psychedelic harm reduction, and psychological welfare. Stephen himself emphasised the importance of this, attempting to write up new principles and agreements for how we would spend our time together.
We weren’t present for Stephen’s one-to-one alleged abuses of power, particularly claims of sexual misconduct. A more compassionate observation we can offer is that Stephen was both in an informal leadership position, and was another participant at the party, so the power dynamics were blurred. He should have recognised that he wielded more power than most, and had greater awareness and care when engaging in romantic and sexual behaviour with people, particularly those on the outside of the friendship network.
Anyone with informal power and influence should do the same. We all have more to do in recognising our power and creating more inclusive, safe and diverse spaces. That’s the most important point. We are all complicit, and the best we can do is create a mature conversation where we grow together.
The side of Stephen that isn’t portrayed on the website is that he is a deeply kind, caring person who is constantly in service to his communities.
We hope this letter will invite people to come forward with a more three-dimensional picture of Stephen and his behaviour, without discounting or discouraging the validity and importance of testimonials from those who have been hurt.
If this message resonates with you, please come forward and sign this collective testimony.
Signing with your full name and job/role title is welcome, but you can sign with your initials if this feels safer for you to do.
This letter was collectively drafted by a small group of Stephen's colleagues and supporters and first published on 11th June 2021. Signatories below are those that are showing support for the content of the already published letter.
It was revised on 19th June 2021 to incorporate feedback from various independent voices in the interests of reconciliation. View the original here
Signed,Dr Rosalind Watts, Clinical Psychologist