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For the sake of the healing of the survivors of abuse, and for the health of our movement, the Office of Child Protection must have the resources to help survivors heal.
the Child Protection Office
By David Gould
The abuse of children within ISKCON has many dimensions. Such abuse can include sexual abuse, physical maltreatment or violence and psychological abuse. In a spiritual organization, such as churches or ISKCON the common denominator is spiritual abuse.
Child abuse experts tell us of a hierarchy of abuse, starting with the family. Secondly comes abuse from a position of trust - a schoolteacher, rabbi, minister or priest, scoutmaster etc. The bottom line is that within ISKCON we have had a gross misuse of spiritual authority, spiritual responsibility and duty of care, by a minority of devotees whose predilection for asserting their own psychological, spiritual, sexual or physical power over a child or other devotee has blinded them to the very morality and spiritual principles enunciated in sastra and by Srila Prabhupada.
The victim of such abuse receives secondary abuse from a religious organization, which shields perpetrators, denies clear evidence of abuse, or asserts the needs of the organization as a whole, over the well being of the victim, and the truth. As a survivor of priestly sexual abuse I know the enormous pain and difficulty that inhibits you from going to spiritual authority and telling what happened.
A personal sense of shame and failure, guilt, and transferred responsibility, from the perpetrator to oneself often characterizes the response of victims of abuse. This can be compounded enormously by the passage of time that exists between the abuse, and the time when courage to tell the truth finally happens.
Posttraumatic stress disorder can
manifest itself in self-destructive behavior, chronic depression,
addictions, compulsive behavior and neurosis. Such behavior can often
place one at odds with other people, and with the community of devotees.
Often the subconscious of the victim screams out for healing, for justice
and for resolution of the huge emotional and psychological pain that the
soul is living through day by day.
Any survivor of abuse within ISKCON
that comes forward to the Office of Child Protection deserves the prayers
and gratitude of every devotee, because the truth must come out for Srila
Prabhupada's family to get back on track. I can testify that it is so hard
to come forward, especially when one may be met with institutional
hostility because of fears of public disgrace, law suits etc.
For the sake of the healing of the
survivors of abuse, and for the health of our movement, the Office of
Child Protection must have the resources to help survivors heal. This
means money, access to professional support, the ability to network with
welfare workers, police, lawyers and doctors, therapists and counselors.
This means that the decisions of the Office of Child Protection must be
upheld by all devotees at all levels - unless an appeals process can show
gross errors of fact or judgment.
This requires the GBC to be
fearless, as Prahlada Maharaja was fearless in the face of his demoniac
father. Child abuse is a demon haunting our society. It must be slain, and
can be if we adhere to the principles of Krsna consciousness and
acknowledge the truth.
The truth is many devotees lives
have been scarred, perhaps irreparably in this lifetime by abuse and
neglect, that in some cases was benign, and not vicious, but in many cases
reflected the fact that we have had leaders, teachers and other devotees
in positions of authority who lacked the morality, the integrity and the
character to hold positions of trust. The truth is that we need to give no
shelter to pedophiles and abusers. The truth is that survivors deserve -
and demand the resources to heal. The truth is, that no money, no
compensation can make your life the same as if one was not abused, raped,
bashed or psychologically tortured. A child who was abused in gurukula
will never know - and cannot know the experience of being raised in a
school as Srila Prabhupada wanted our children raised. The truth is that
the health of ISKCON will require sacrifice of our time, our emotions and
money to right this matter.
The truth is that devotees who were
abused deserve help from our society, to enable them to heal, to grow, and
to restore their faith in the integrity of ISKCON. The truth is that
survivors of devotee abuse deserve our loyalty, our commitment to see
perpetrators behind bars, where the criminal law has been breached. The
truth is that perpetrators of abuse - be they temple presidents or gurus -
have no place in positions of trust and authority over the lives of other
devotees and especially children, if they have violated our children. The
truth is that there can be no rehabilitation of pedophiles to preach,
teach, lead or direct the affairs of the lives of any devotees - let alone
The truth is, that the pain that a
survivor of sexual abuse feels can be as strong today as it was 15 years
ago. The truth is, that for many survivors of abuse, including myself, the
ability to think about what happened, to feel in your heart and soul what
happened, might not happen for many years. The ugly truth is, that because
we may not have children or young adults coming forward today to testify
what they suffered 4 or 5 years ago is meaningless. We are almost
certainly not free of child sexual abuse within ISKCON. The truth is that
the pain of current victims is almost certainly too strong to bear, and it
may be 10 years before they can speak.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor for
the State of Tasmania, told me recently that despite the fact that a new
1994 law strengthened his ability to prosecute child abusers, the fact
that victims take so long in the main, to report the crimes to which they
have suffered, means that he will be long retired before the 1994 law can
be applied to post 1994 crimes.
The truth is that child abuse is
not an issue about the mistakes of our past. Child abuse is not
eradicated. The Office of Child Protection should be funded and
acknowledged as having long-term responsibility for the welfare of our
children, and the subjection of perpetrators of abuse to the fullest
punishment of our ecclesiastical laws and the civil and criminal law.
© CHAKRA 4-June-2000
Go to the Child Abuse Page
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