An Open Letter To Whole Foods And Conscious Capitalism: Sexual Violence Accountability

By Nancy Levine
Feminine Collective
December 03, 2016

Dear members of the boards of directors of Whole Foods Market and Conscious Capitalism, Inc.:

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, as reported by The New York Times ;

“She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her,”

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.

Despite a petition and protests at Whole Foods stores, as reported by The Washington Post, a Whole Foods Market statement says Mackey’s decisions about Gafni are “personal and independent.

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.”

The 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 kinder world, and heal our collective wounds. And we believe this situation presents a 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

Nikki DuBose, Board Member, Peaceful Hearts Foundation, and Author of Washed Away: From Darkness to Light

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

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

Melisa Mel, CEO and President, From Victim to Survivor, LLC, Advisory Board Member, EVAWI (End Violence Against Women International)

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 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,

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

Diane Champé, President, Founder of the E. Diane Champé Institute, serving adult survivors of child abuse and neglect, Author: Conquering Incest

Tammi Stefano, Investigative Reporter, Host, National Safe Child Show

Rachel Thompson, Activist, Rachel in the OC, Author, Broken Places and Broken Pieces

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

Victoria Elyonda Broussard, Esq., Coach, Attorney, Author, Keynote Speaker, Survivor

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

Girls Against

Shatter the Silence of Sexual Violence

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, 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

Terry Lilienfield

Heather Marlowe

Cathleen Daly

Susan Sterman-Jones

Sofia Nunez-Morales

Ron Hollander

Blake Adler

Crystal Rives

Buz Daney


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