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“I'm going to speak about the basic functions of the Child Protection Office.”

DHIRA GOVINDA


24 year old Vedasara Prabhu grew up in the Mayapur Gurukula. He now works for with the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection.

Child Protection Discussion at GBC Meeting
By Vipramukhya Swami

CHAKRA (Mayapur, India) - February 9, 2001: The GBC Body met today to hear a presentation by Dhira Govinda Prabhu, AKA Dr. David Wolf, about child abuse. Speaking before an audience of approximately 100, it was part of an ongoing GBC program to increase awareness of child abuse issues and prevention. He also presented several educational videos on abuse in churches/temples, and among congregational members.

"I'm going to speak about the basic functions of the Child Protection Office," he began.

In 1997 the GBC established the Child Protection Taskforce. This taskforce outlined a plan for dealing with child protection issues of the past with a view of establishing a healthy future for the Movement. A central office for child protection was established in 1998.

Since its inception, the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (CPO) implemented a system for investigating all allegations of abuse, past or present. Dhira Govinda said that professionals such as counselors, child psychologists and government officials have reviewed and given favorable critiques of the ISKCON CPO system.

The CPO is meant to compliment existing government systems. Commenting on the procedure for reporting suspected child abuse, Dhira Govinda said, "Learn and follow the local law. The purpose of the child protection office is not to replace local legal agencies, but to work in tangent."

He reported that another function of the child protection office is outreach and to establish proper screening methods for those who work in ISKCON temples and affiliated schools. Application forms, interviews, internal background checks, and law enforcement background checks are critical.

Children as well as adults should be trained in abuse prevention. Dhira Govinda said that since it is Kali-yuga, persons with ill intentions may come to our temples. He made the point that having children trained in abuse prevention and having child protection teams in place will serve as strong deterrents.

After the brief rundown on the activity of the office, Dhira Govinda conducted a lively question and answer session.

A 45-minute educational video on abuse followed. Many were surprised by the statistics offered on the video. In North America, for example, 1 of 3 girls and 1 of 7 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. "Child abuse is an epidemic in modern society," commented one minister from Los Angeles.

Devotees from India informed the group about the just released book "Bitter Chocolate." The book documents wide spread child abuse in India and is creating a public outcry. Until recently, abuse in India has not been openly addressed. The book documents widespread abuse across social, religious and economic stratum.

The GBCs broke for lunch at 1 PM and returned at 3:30 PM. (Each meeting day is divided into two formal 3 hour sessions.)

In the afternoon session, Dhira Govinda introduced Vedasara Prabhu, a 24-year-old who grew up in the Mayapur Gurukula system. He now works with the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection and is the principal of the Mayapur Gurukula.

Vedasara introduced a group of Mayapur Gurukula students who are graduating from the Gurukula this year. All of them reported favorable experiences in the Gurukula, and were thankful of their time spent in the school. They looked forward to the future service they hope to render to the Hare Krishna Movement.

A second video presentation followed concerning a Christian Community that struggled to establish an abuse education curriculum for their Sunday school students. A final video discussed the positive ways a church can implement child protection programs. The video suggested four central elements of a prevention plan: (1) screening of workers and volunteers, (2) supervision of workers (the rule of three is that there should be at least two adults present with any child), (3) reporting policies, and finally (4) a response plan.

Those interested in learning how to obtain copies of these videos and other educational material are urged to contact:

Dhira Govinda dasa ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection P.O. Box 1438 Alachua, Florida 32616-1438 Tel: 904-418-0882 FAX: 904-418-0982 Email: dgovinda@aol.com

Leaders from different countries discussed their positive experiences in utilizing the resources of local government and social welfare agencies. Dhira Govinda pointed out that abuse prevention is an ongoing process. Where in the past ISKCON communities may have been vulnerable to abuse in our ashrama schools, today we are more likely to have allegations of abuse arise from within our congregations. Thus all ISKCON temples, like any church or synagogue, should assure that the precautions outlined above are in place.

GBC members and guests expressed appreciation for the ongoing efforts of the ISKCON Office of Child Protection, and of the informative presentation by Dhira Govinda Prabhu.

© CHAKRA 10 February 2001

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