Go to the Child Abuse Page
Report of the
Association for the Protection of
Vaisnava Children for 2001
In 1997 the GBC formed the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force. This committee produced the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report and submitted it to the GBC in 1998. At the annual GBC meetings in 1998 the GBC ratified this report, which proposed the establishment of a central office of child protection to coordinate the child protection activities of the movement. On April 1, 1998, the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (aka the Association for the Protection of Vaisnava Children) began functioning. The Task Force Report mandates the Association for the Protection of Vaisnava Children (APVC) to conduct activities in several child protection areas, and this report describes the activities of the office in its various capacities.
Outreach Programs— Child Protection Teams, Child Protection Education, Screening
Outreach activities of the APVC include helping temples to establish child protection teams, institute effective screening procedures for staff and volunteers, and develop child protection education programs for children, parents, teachers and administrators. In the year 2000 Aditi dasi visited many temples in North America to evaluate and assist their child protection efforts. In 2001 she made a similar tour of Europe. Also, Hanuman dasa and Bhakta Lyall, along with representatives of ISKCON Communications in Europe, have taken responsibility to coordinate APVC outreach functions in Europe. Anumanta dasa has compiled and sent to ISKCON leaders a report on the child protection activities of each temple, especially in North America and Europe. In December 2001, the APVC produced a newsletter, entitled Child Protection News, and sent it to 1,000 devotees around the world. Also, the office now has a website, www.apvc.org, describing APVC functions and serving as a child protection resource for devotees.
The APVC sends to temples packets of information on outreach programs, and follows up with the temple leaders and child protection team members regarding utilization of this information. A leader in a Vaisnava community wrote "My compliments to the devotees working with the child protection office. Your latest mailout with the application/screening form, interview questions, etc., was excellent, informative, and above all, useful! We will be incorporating as much of it as is applicable to our situation. Also, I plan to update the membership application for our community to include abuse screening. We already require a criminal record check."
We urge ISKCON leaders throughout the world to take personal responsibility to ensure that child protection safeguards, such as education and screening, are in place at the temples under your jurisdiction. Please contact the APVC for any assistance or information you may require in this regard.
During the year APVC staff and volunteers presented many trainings and workshops to Vaisnava audiences, some of which are described herein. In September, 2001, in Alachua, Florida, the APVC conducted a 4-day, intensive training on child protection issues, with 25 Vaisnava participants from around the world attending. Speakers at the course included Dr. Kathryn Kuenhle, a world renowned expert on child abuse investigations and treatment of children who have been abused, Dr. Howard Rogers, Medical Director of the Alachua County Child Protection Team, and Dr. Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist with the police department of Raleigh, North Carolina, and a leader in the field of forensic psychology applied to child abuse cases. Dr. Teague stated "I very much applaud the work of the Association for the Protection of Vaisnava Children. I am impressed by your commitment and sacrifice. So many groups do lip service to protection of children, but your organization really epitomizes the ideal of taking action in this area." Also, Mahavisnupriya dasi, a clinical social worker and organizer of programs for the benefit of children and families for the Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia, spoke on the topic of child protection education for children and adults. Mahavisnupriya has made several presentations on child protection over the years to devotee schools. Most of the graduates of the 4-day course are currently serving as panel members for child abuse cases processed by the APVC.
In February 2001, Dhira Govinda dasa made a full-day presentation at the GBC meetings in Mayapur, with about 100 ISKCON leaders attending. This presentation included training on child abuse prevention topics such as recognizing symptoms of child abuse, consequences and types of child maltreatment, and establishing child protection education programs in temples. The seminar included videos on child abuse in churches, setting up child protection efforts in religious institutions, and legal issues connected with child abuse and religious organizations. Also, during the presentation Vedasara dasa, Principle of the Mayapur Gurukula and Director of the Indian branch of the APVC, introduced graduating students from the gurukula. Also, during the North American ISKCON Leadership meetings in May 2001, in New Vrndavana, Dhira Govinda dasa presented about the services of the APVC. In November 2001, Braja Bihari Prabhu, Managing Director of the Vrndavana Gurukula and a graduate of the child protection training held in Alachua in September 2001, presented about child protection issues for a full-day at the ISKCON India leadership meetings.
Case Investigation and Adjudication
One of the major directives of the Task Force Report is for the APVC to investigate and adjudicate cases of alleged child abuse connected with ISKCON. The office has established systems, consistent with the guidelines of the Task Force Report, for investigating and adjudicating accusations of child abuse connected with the movement. These systems are not meant to supplant governmental social service and law enforcement systems. Rather, the internal system addresses issues and cases that State systems will not. For example, even if a child abuser is convicted and serves time in prison, when he is released the government authorities will not directly concern themselves with whether he is permitted to give a Srimad-Bhagavatam class in an ISKCON temple, or join the staff of a gurukula. As members of ISKCON, dedicated to protecting the children of our spiritual society and preserving the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s organization, we are naturally concerned about such things. Also, many cases, for various reasons, such as duration of time elapsed and unwillingness of the alleged victims to press charges, will never be heard in the State court system. Still, we want to assure that accusations are dealt with responsibly within our society. The APVC advises all members of Srila Prabhupada’s movement to learn and follow their local laws concerning child maltreatment and mandated reporting of child abuse and child neglect, and to fully cooperate with government authorities in their investigation of allegations of child mistreatment.
Since the office opened in 1998 the APVC has received accusations of child maltreatment allegedly committed by more than 300 alleged perpetrators. While some of these accusations involve alleged incidents that happened in ISKCON temples, or by persons representing ISKCON, many of the accusations relate to alleged incidents occurring in the congregation, or alleged incidents having no connection with ISKCON whatsoever, but involving an alleged abuser who now has some relationship with ISKCON. When an accusation is received, the APVC works with leaders in the devotee community to deal with the situation in a balanced and fair way while the investigation is pursued. The adjudicatory system involves sending a case, after it has been investigated, to a panel of child protection judges. Mr. Stephen Johnson, a lawyer for more than thirty years who has worked with and helped ISKCON in various capacities, including serving as the legal representative for an alleged child sexual abuser connected with the organization, wrote "I have been very impressed with the efforts of the APVC on behalf of ISKCON International in dealing with child abuse situations. I reviewed their adjudicatory process, their procedures, their definitional sections and the training involved in becoming judges in that adjudicative process. I find that process to be one which affords due process to the person who is the alleged perpetrator, as well as opportunities for rebuttal, and strikes the necessary balance between fundamental fairness and the search for truth. In this regard, APVC’s initiative is a very important one. The APVC shows sensitivity to the victims as well as understanding of the perpetrators and provides for opportunities for those perpetrators to make amends and continue on their spiritual path, while making sure the Vaisnava children are protected."
During this past year the APVC has provided guidance on more than 100 cases, and is actively conducting investigations on several dozen cases. About 25 cases are currently in the hands of adjudicatory panels.
Official Decisions on cases have been issued by the APVC since 1998, with many items in the rectification plans of those cases being time-dependent. Malini dasi, Secretary of the APVC, has compiled a compliance report, describing the degree to which the perpetrators have complied with the rectification plan. This report has been sent to ISKCON leaders. The extent to which the APVC can determine compliance is largely dependent on reports and documentation it receives from local devotees. Thus, it is very important that temple leaders and child protection team members, as well as other devotees in the community, have access to the Official Decisions, and report relevant information to the APVC.
For protection of children and the integrity of Srila Prabhupada's movement it is essential that ISKCON leaders strictly enforce the Official Decisions on cases of child maltreatment. The APVC is available for guidance in this regard.
The father of a former gurukuli wrote to the APVC, responding to the copy he had received of the Official Decision on the case of his son's abuser, and also commenting on assistance that the office has provided to his son: "You [the APVC] are doing something very wonderful and necessary for the children of Srila Prabhupada. You are providing a rallying point. A place from which they can unload their anger and hopefully get on with their lives. An umbrella to protect them. You are giving relief to their feelings of helplessness, of having no shelter and of being unwanted. You are explaining the thing honestly, and asserting in a very strong voice, just like Maharaja Pariksit, that the influence of Kali against our major asset, our youth, will neither be tolerated nor covered up. Your office stands up for integrity and gives these kids a necessary boost. The panel showed great balance and restraint and Krsna conscious integrity. You folks exhibited a lot of courage and spunk by not making it a political/PR ploy."
Another devotee wrote "Just imagine if the APVC had not stepped in to bring some sanity to the [name of child abuse perpetrator] situation. We had been screaming for months— sending out hundreds of letters around the world— but with no practical result. Until your office became involved, nothing was being accomplished, and the abuser was simply laughing at us. (And this is only one example.) So please rest assured that your service is most valuable and appreciated indeed."
In a recent apology for child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church the Pope expressed the need for the Catholic Church to develop "open and just procedures to respond to complaints in this area" and commitment to "compassionate and effective care for the victims, their families, the whole community and the offenders themselves." Essentially the Pope seeks to establish systems that ISKCON has begun to effectively put into place with the Association for the Protection of Vaisnava Children (APVC).
Since 1998 the APVC has issued more than $220,000 in grants to youth who were maltreated when they were children under the care of ISKCON. These grants have been used for educational and vocational development, and for mental health therapy. At present the APVC does not have funds to continue the grant program.
A grant recipient wrote "Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the kind, considerate manner you have shown me— for giving me hope that perhaps I do have a place in ISKCON, and for restoring, to a degree, my faith in Krsna and Srila Prabhupada... I wanted to make sure I let you know how much I appreciate all you have done.... Almost a decade has passed since I began losing my faith, so this replenishment is somewhat unfamiliar." Another grant recipient wrote "Thank you very much. I've spent so much time being negative towards people in ISKCON that it's somewhat difficult to change. It's hard to know what to say. Thank you." Other responses include "The service the Child Protection Office is doing for the gurukulis is wonderful. I am very grateful for your help. In the past I had no motivation or goals in life. Now I am going to college... Through Krsna's smooth arrangement and your kind help I am doing wonderfully in college, dreams I have are being realized and I actually feel happy— no longer hopeless and sad," and "My heartfelt thanks and gratitude goes out to everyone who has made this all possible. I feel that through these wonderful gestures and helping, gurukulis attain a measure of security and relative peace in this material world. This is all bringing us closer together, and we know that ISKCON really is trying, and that a lot of devotees do care about us in many ways. Thank you sincerely."
Resource and Guidance Center
As devotees are increasingly informed about the services of the APVC, the office receives increasing numbers of contacts for child protection issues. During the past year the office has received thousands of contacts from devotees worldwide, requesting guidance and resources on a multitude of child protection issues. For example: Devotees are planning a summer camp for children and consult the APVC regarding precautions that should be taken to protect the campers. Of particular concern is a person who will be at the camp who has a history of inappropriate conduct towards children; A mataji in a third world country has received the Official Decision of the APVC on a child sexual abuser, and notices that the decision is not being complied with by the abuser or the local leadership. Her attempts to encourage compliance has heightened tensions in the yatra. She informs the APVC of the situation, and the APVC helps the local managers to understand and resolve the situation with regards to compliance, sensitivity to the abuse victims and family members of the victims, protection of children, and the integrity of Srila Prabhupada's movement; The APVC is informed about continued trouble spots in the movement, where, based on reports, children may be at risk. The office contacts and works with the leadership to implement child protection safeguards, and the office begins the investigation of persons in the area who allegedly abused children; A former gurukuli who was badly mistreated as a child in the organization contacts the APVC to help him deal with the temple managers in the community where he resides. He is having conflicts with the temple authorities, and the APVC works with he and his wife, along with the temple president, to create a satisfactory arrangement for all parties; The APVC receives several reports about a member of an ISKCON community who harasses young girls. This community member holds an influential position and the devotees making the report are frustrated and intimidated in trying to address the situation with temple authorities. The APVC contacts the various parties involved to reconcile the immediate situation, and also opens a case file and begins an investigation into the accusations; A school principle contacts the APVC with concerns about a 6 year old girl. The APVC speaks with the girl and her teachers and parents. The mother is grateful for the intervention of the office and agrees to attend parenting classes to learn anger management and proper disciplining techniques; A child abuse perpetrator contacts the APVC for guidance on appropriate steps of rectification he can take to reestablish healthy relations with his family.
For the year 2001 ISKCON leaders pledged $126,000 for the APVC. Pledges fulfilled totaled $118,000. In the year 2000 ISKCON leaders pledged $225,000, of which $120,000 was realized. A financial report for the year 2001, including a list of pledges made, fulfilled, and owed, is available, and will be distributed at the GBC meetings in March 2002. In 1999 the GBC made a million dollar pledge towards helping the youth through the APVC. Since the inception of the APVC the GBC has provided about $650,000 to the office.
Plans for the Upcoming Year
Currently the staff of the APVC consists of Malini dasi, who serves as Secretary and Administrative Assistant, Anumanta dasa, who serves as Outreach Coordinator, and Dhira Govinda dasa, who serves as Director. The staff works with about fifty trained child protection judges in adjudicating cases. Also, the APVC serves the hundreds of devotees around the world who are actively engaged in child protection, on child protection teams, as temple managers, involved parents, trained social service professionals, and in many other capacities. We, the staff of the office, pray to be able to continue to serve the Vaisnava community worldwide in protecting the children of Srila Prabhupada's movement. During the upcoming year the office will continue to respond to allegations of child maltreatment, and to investigate and resolve cases. Further, the APVC plans to expand its outreach and prevention efforts, through newsletters, the APVC website, and visiting and maintaining contact with temples and schools. The APVC staff is available to address your concerns and answer your questions regarding functioning of the office and all child protection issues. We will assist you in any way we can to help make your community safe for the children of our Vaisnava society. Hare Krsna.
CHAKRA 8 February 2002
Go to the Child Abuse Page
© Copyright November, 2003 by oldchakra.com. All rights reserved.
about this website or to report an
error, write to email@example.com