Bia Labate
Executive director of the Chacruna Institute

The Chacruna Institute Ayahuasca Community Guide for the Awareness of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse and misconduct towards female participants in ayahuasca circles and underground contexts involving psychedelics is quite prevalent. This is especially shocking considering many women who attend these circles are seeking healing for sexual traumas they suffered in the past. The Ayahuasca Community Guide for the Awareness and Prevention of Sexual Abuse is an initiative of the Ayahuasca Community Committee of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines aimed at helping to safeguard women in ayahuasca ceremonial settings. The guidelines based on research were created through a collaborative process involving consultation with women and men in the ayahuasca community across different cultural contexts, including indigenous and Western survivors of abuse, ayahuasca healers and ceremonial facilitators, researchers and legal experts.

Sexual assault of female participants by male healers and facilitators in ayahuasca contexts is a perversion of the healer-participant dynamic in which the healer or facilitator uses their position of power and responsibility for personal gratification and gain. The problem is further exacerbated by cultural differences in the current context of the globalisation of ayahuasca. Furthermore, instances of so-called “consensual” sex between religious leader or shaman and disciple or patient tend to involve significant power imbalances and can foster wilful deception and manipulation on the part of the healer. As well as helping to protect women in ayahuasca contexts, we hope that the guidelines will inspire helpful dialogue about this issue that extends across cultural and gender boundaries, and positive collaborative action within our community. This we argue is essential in our communal efforts to heal this grave problem.

Beatriz Caiuby Labate has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of plant medicines, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, and religion. She is Executive Director of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, an organisation that provides public education about psychedelic plant medicines and promotes a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science.

She is Adjunct Faculty at the East-West Psychology Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Research and Post Graduate Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in Guadalajara. She is also Public Education and Culture Specialist at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). She is co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP) in Brazil, and editor of NEIP’s website, as well as editor of the Mexican blog Drugs, Politics, and Culture.

She is author, co-author, and co-editor of twenty books, one special-edition journal, and several peer-reviewed articles.