An Open Letter to Whole Foods and Conscious Capitalism: Sexual Violence Accountability
[First published on Feminine Collective]
How do we change the culture of sexual violence? Should conscious leaders hold each other accountable?
We respect and admire Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s commitment to the value of loyalty. As a founding board member of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., Mackey’s intentions were presumably good and noble in prioritizing this value, and pledging loyalty to his friend, spiritual leader Marc Gafni.
However, Gafni said of one of his sexual abuse accusers, “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her,” as reported by The New York Times.
Gafni’s assertion that his two underage accusers were “willing partners,” as reported by the New York Daily News, is reprehensible.
By legal definition, a 14-year-old cannot grant consent to having sexual contact. The law deems that minors do not have the capacity nor power to protect themselves. So any discussion about consensual sexual activity with underage girls is immaterial and contemptible.
But changing the culture of sexual violence is on all of us.
In his statement, Mackey said, “Loyalty and the presumption of innocence are important values to me, so I will not join those who are condemning [Gafni],” as reported by the Forward.
In pledging his loyalty to Gafni, and protecting their “personal relationship,” as noted on his Whole Foods Market Blog, Mackey has inadvertently hurt survivors of sexual assault and obstructed efforts to change the culture of sexual violence. Overlooking Gafni’s public admission minimizes and normalizes sexual violence, and impedes efforts to change the culture.
If conscious leadership allows for adjustments to be made when new information becomes available, would Mackey be willing to update his statement about Gafni, and disavow his friend?
We think this situation presents an enormous opportunity for evolution. It holds the potential to spur growth for Whole Foods and Conscious Capitalism, healing for the community of survivors, and heightened awareness for the culture at-large. This is an opportunity for all of us to become even more conscious.
Sara Kabakov was the then-14-year-old girl whom Gafni described as “going on 35.” She came forward publicly for the first time in an article in the Forward: “I Was 13 When Marc Gafni’s Abuse Began.” In a follow-up article, Sara wrote:
“I do, however, care about girls and women and protecting them from sexual predators. I care about the way so many predators make excuses for sexually criminal behavior. I care about the way the term ‘youthful mistake’ is used to explain away deplorable actions that can turn a survivor’s life into a nightmare.”
Statute of limitations restrictions have precluded any consideration of formal action against Gafni. A legislative battle continues in New York State over the Child Victims Act — proposed statute of limitations reform for claims of child sexual abuse.
Perhaps Mackey hadn’t previously considered that “the presumption of innocence” is a standard used for adjudication, but not necessarily the measure we apply to decision-making outside the courtroom.
What if we look at Mackey’s loyalty to Gafni through the lens of the multiple stakeholder model? Gafni is one stakeholder. Whole Foods Market, Conscious Capitalism Inc., their investors and constituents, the community of survivors, and the culture at-large are the other stakeholders. Might this be an opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy of the multiple stakeholder model?
Would Mackey be willing to issue an updated statement about Gafni that reflects his review of new information that has become available, including opinions of experts from Harvard Business School, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business?
Our goals are in alignment. We all want to further evolution of humanity, create a more kind world, and heal our collective wounds. And we believe this situation presents an historic opportunity to do so.
Advocacy leaders would be eager to collaborate with John Mackey, Whole Foods Market, and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. to help change the culture of sexual violence; to create reparative messaging and action plans that demonstrate support for survivors of sexual assault, and propel culture change.
This is also an opportunity for Conscious Capitalism to demonstrate to the world the flexibility of conscious leadership. We believe this matter presents a joint opportunity to help humanity evolve.
Are conscious leaders willing to engage in a dialogue?
An open letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez from advocacy leaders, urging him to address this matter in his keynote speech at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit in October, went unheeded.
A hardcopy version of this letter was sent in October to Raj Sisodia, co-Chairman of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., via Fedex, with copies sent to all board members of Whole Foods Market and Conscious Capitalism. As of this writing, there has been no response.
Changing the culture of sexual violence is on all of us — we must all hold each other accountable.
Would executives from Whole Foods Market and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. be willing to have a conversation about this matter with advocacy leaders?
Thank you for your consideration.
Matthew Sandusky, Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation, Author, Undaunted: Breaking My Silence to Overcome the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse
Leadership Team, Faculty Against Rape (FAR)
David Clohessy, Executive Director SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; organization featured in movie Spotlight)
Dr. Shruti Kapoor, Founder and President, Sayfty, Empowering Women Against Violence
Christine Gordon, Founder, Director of Education, Cultures of Consent
Jonathan Kalin, Founder, Party With Consent
Michael A. Messner, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, Author, Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women
Dr. Anne Balay, Co-ordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Concentration, Haverford College, Haverford PA
Bettina Aptheker, Professor, Feminist Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz
Angela C. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., Director, University of Cincinnati Women’s Center
Ashlee Carter, Associate Director, Dean of Students Office at Seton Hall University
Wendy Murphy, J.D., Adjunct Professor of Sexual Violence Law at New England Law, Boston
Doug White, Former Director, Graduate Program in Fundraising Management, Columbia University
Susan Woods, Criminal Justice Professor, Advocate to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, Madonna University
Christa Santangelo, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor, University of California, San Francisco
Manish Madan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, Stockton University
Charlotte Bennett, Co-founder of Sexual Misconduct and Assault Task-Force, Hamilton College
Sarah Mische, Advocate, SARA (Sexual Assault Response Allies) at Willamette University
Olivia Foster, First-Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education (FYCARE) Facilitator, the University of Illinois Women’s Resource Center
Nora McMahon, First-Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education (FYCARE) Facilitator, the University of Illinois Women’s Resource Center
Emma Fojtik, First-Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education (FYCARE) Facilitator, the University of Illinois Women’s Resource Center
Nikki Madle, Rape Crisis Advocate, Sexual Violence Prevention Intern, University of North Carolina, Asheville
Rain Freeman, Mental Health Advocate, Peer Wellness Educator, American University
Mira McMahon, Volunteer Coordinator, Peer Advocate, Brandeis University Rape Crisis Center
Ariana Keigan, Student Advocate, Brandeis University
Ali Macmillan, Advocate, Survivor, Intern for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Lewis & Clark College
Thanh Mai Bercher, Anti-Sexual Assault Organizer, Associated Students of the University of California
Sophie Tohl, Student, Advocate, Vassar College
Bill Murray, Founder and CEO, NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse)
Andrew Willis, CEO, Stop Abuse Campaign
Pamela Pine, PhD, MPH, Founder and CEO, Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Inc.
Virginia Lewis, Founder and Executive Director, ToPrevail.org
Samantha Nelson, CEO, The Hope of Survivors
Jane Fredricksen, Executive Director, FaithTrust Institute
Elizabeth Sullivan, Founder and President, Empower Survivors
Sandra Potter, CEO and Founder, Dreamcatchers for Abused Children
Whitney Gabriel, Board Member, Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute (CMRPI)
Sherryll Kraizer, Ph.D., Director, Coalition for Children
Connie Lee, President and Founder, FACSA Foundation
Jill Jones-Soderman, Executive Director, Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts
Blair Corbett, Executive Director, Ark of Hope for Children
Kim L. Dawkins, Executive Director, Pathways for Change, Inc.
Ann (Newton) Brandon, Training and Technical Assistance Specialist at Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence
Karina Castellanos Hudgins, M.A., Trauma Counselor & Educator, Rape Trauma Services
Kelly Heaton, Executive Director, Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, Advocate and Mother
Cheryl Rogers, JD, Executive Consultant, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition
Alicia K. Sandberg, Attorney and Deputy Director, YA NO MAS Rape Crisis Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Prevention and “Enough is Enough” Programs, The Westchester Hispanic Coalition
Yolandie Els, Sexual Trauma Advocate at Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County
Melissa Mansfield, Sexual Assault Volunteer, The Women’s Center of Tarrant County
Siobhan Jackson, Sexual Assault Victim Advocate, YWCA, St. Joseph, Missouri
Jennifer Lagowski, MA, Sexual Assault Counselor, Guardian Angel Community Services
Leslie J. Razana Volunteer & Public Outreach Coordinator at Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR)
Danielle Stewart, Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocate, Center for Women in Transition
Jane Johnson, Co-Founder, Survivors Speak RI
Gary Greenberg, Director, Protect NY Kids
Ana Wagner, Organizer, Brooklyn Bridge March for a Window
Manny Waks, CEO, Kol v’Oz
Rabbi David Ingber, Founder and Spiritual Director, Romemu
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, The Jewish Mindfulness Network, Los Angeles CA
Rowan Frost, MPH, Advocate, Safe Streets AZ
Tammi Stefano, Investigative Reporter, Host, National Safe Child Show
Julie Anderson, Founder and Publisher, Feminine Collective
Cliff Mason II, J.D., Founder and Publisher, Mason Report®
Christina Kunes Williams, Founder, Damsels~N~Distress®
Shanon Lee, Writer, Journalist, Activist, Filmmaker, My Love For Writing
Joe Capozzi, Advocate, Writer and Filmmaker: Confession
Sara Kabakov, Advocate, Activist, Survivor
Judy Mitzner, Advocate, Activist, Survivor
Mike Pistorino, Advocate, Activist, Public Speaker
Gilion Dumas, Attorney and Advocate for Abuse Survivors
Julie Rannells, Victims’ Advocate for Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence Victims
Stewart Thompson, Survivor, Advocate, Public Speaker
Rachel Grant, Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach, Rachel Grant Coaching
Kathryn Hoover, M.Ed., SCL School Counselor, Former Governor-Appointment to the Michigan Domestic & Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board, President of the Washtenaw Counselors Association
Coleen Widell, Consultant on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault
Jonathan Pillot, Founder, the creative[re]directors, Activist, Storyteller
Nancy Levine, Advocate, Activist, Survivor
Kody Roper, M.Ed, LPCC, EMDR, Therapist
Philip Hickey, MSW/LCSW, Psychotherapist
Leslie Abbey, LSCSW, Psychotherapist, Specialist, Sexual Trauma
Allison Denman, MS, BS, EMT, Women’s Health Study Research Associate, EMS Educator
Kelly Laakso, Sexual Assault Advocate, Expert witness on Sexual Assault, Board Member for Superior Child Advocacy Center
Nichelle Cieri, Victim Advocate for Interpersonal Violence Survivors, Reno, NV
Karen Black, Founder, Survivors Alliance North Devon, UK
Liz Novack, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate and Crisis Counselor, Domestic and Sexual Violence Nurse Researcher
Karen Boone, Senior Advisor, Women United Against Sexual Molestation
Lauren Coletta, Volunteer Sexual Assault Crisis Counselor
Ayana Crawford, Women Empowerment and Civil Rights Activist
Christian J. Murillo, Social Justice Activist, Healthy Relationships Advocate
Jasmine May, Advocate, Activist
Glenna Tinney, Advocate and Activist
Elischia Fludd, Advocate, Activist
Chelsea Isom, Sexual Assault Counselor
Jaimis Rebecca Ulrich, Advocate, Activist
Shanta Kamath Advocate, Activist, Peer Support Specialist
Lupita Gonzalez, Title IX activist, advocate, writer
Erika Riobó-Gómez, Bilingual Sexual Assault Counselor
Macauley Fox, Title IX Coordinator/Advocate
Sinead McDonough, Bilingual Victim Advocate
Sabine Shaughnessy, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Counselor
Oriana Jimenez, MHR, MBA, Title IX practitioner, Human Resources Professional, Social Justice Advocate and Educator
Samantha Daniels, Brandeis University, University of Pennsylvania
Lisa Orchard, Author and Survivor Advocate
Julie Budd, Advocate, Activist, Survivor
Cathy Binkoski, Advocate , Co-Survivor , Activist
Janice Decker, Survivor
Pamela Kochen Baroukh, Artist
Karen Abrams, Creative Director, Encinitas, CA
Andrew Jordan, El Paso, TX
Susan Marcus-Mendoza, Ph.D., Norman, OK
Katy Otto, Philadelphia, PA
Dorron A. Katzin, Chicago, IL
Susan Ramos Chatzky