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“I implore the GBC to rethink its role in this and many other issues that face our movement today. Maybe one of them will step out and take up the challenge.”

Report from a Child Abuse Seminar
By Krsnacandra dasa

Dear CHAKRA readers,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I returned last night from the seminar on Child Abuse that I wrote of in my last article 'GBC Reaction to Child Abuse Ruling'.  It was a very successful seminar as far as seminars go, and was well attended with victims, health and welfare professionals, lawyers and politicians.

As I did not hear from a single GBC member I took it upon myself to speak with openness and honesty- which proved to be a most rewarding path to take.  In fact I ended up being approached by many of the attendees for information and advice as well as being asked to speak at the next scheduled seminar.

The seminar was rewarding for me personally in many ways. Primarily I was given an even deeper insight into the suffering and personal devastation that abuse causes to an individual by the many personal testimonies that some of the victims present bravely offered the gathering.

Secondly, I saw more clearly how our Child Protection services especially the ICOCP is in many ways leading the world in inter-organizational child protection procedures. Especially in the way it deals with our past abusers.

The third aspect is not so much of a reward but a let down. This may be summarized in a short excerpt that a government psychologist dealing with Child abuse presented. The excerpt is from a Rev. Marie Fortune who has worked in the US in combating child abuse by members of the clergy, who said, "When I first began to help address the issues of professional misconduct and sexual abuse, I believed that the real problem before us among the administrators, the leaders, the bishops etc., was one of ignorance. I no longer believe the problem is ignorance. I now see institutions more interested in secrecy and damage control than justice, more interested in protecting themselves from survivors that healing for survivors, more interested in avoiding liability than doing the right thing, more interested in protecting the perpetrator than in holding them accountable."

It was clearly understood by all present at the seminar that the churches placed emphasis on the institutional as opposed to the spiritual aspects of their obligations to their communities. Further that the churches acceptance and appropriate action in dealing with abuse caused by their members was an integral aspect of the survivor's recovery.

So it is with this light that I point out that our upper echelon has reacted in a very similar way to the various churches that were discussed at the seminar and implore them to reconsider and to act in a more appropriate manner befitting our devotional community.

It was interesting to note that all of the victims who gave testimony at the seminar were abused by priests. They were all extremely bitter and resentful that the officialdom of the various churches was in denial. They had also not yet finished dealing with legal and personal issues relating to cover ups and denial by the church officialdom.

It was also interesting to note that a major concern of the professionals involved with child abuse was that just as the proficiency of the intervention and legal aspects of child abuse increased so did the skill and cunning in the avoidance of discovery by the perpetrators increase.  That this coupled with the fact that it may take up to twenty or more years for a person to begin dealing with their abuse may affect the statistics on the efficacy of child abuse intervention procedures in place today.

It was also interesting to note the extremely positive reaction by the attendees to my suggestion that child abuse required some “champion,” possibly in the form of a politician or in churches a bishop or cardinal (in ISKCON that could be a GBC, sannyasi or guru), who would openly fight for the cause and provide the much-needed leadership that child abuse warrants.

I implore the GBC to rethink its role in this and many other issues that face our movement today. Maybe one of them will step out and take up the challenge.

Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Krsnacandra dasa

© CHAKRA 29-May-2000

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