Bahudak Prabhu writes a letter, which is disturbing, but truthful. We here at Chakra are committed to telling you the whole truth. We don't hide anything, although we have our own perspective, which is independent and not dictated to us by the GBC. At CHAKRA, although we are friends with the GBC, we only present our own views. We speak of our own free will.
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Dear prabhus, All Glories to Prabhupada. Please accept my obeisances.
Jagadananda has provided a quote suggesting that the accusations ofchild abuse in the Hare Krishna movement have been exaggerated bythose wishing to scapegoat new religious movements, and that our rateof abuse is no worse and perhaps better than that of the generalpopulation. I sincerely wish I could agree with this assessment but Ido not think that the facts support it. Even if it is true that ourrate of child abuse is no higher than the general population that isa damning figure ( estimates generally fall in the range of 1/3 forgirls and 1/4 for boys ), and a cold comfort to a society that prideditself on a high level of spiritual purity and religious principles.
I submit that the occurence of child abuse in the movement was very very high and it is the greatest shame and the greatest scandal that we have to face.
In our defense it can be said that we were very ignorant and unawareof the dynamics of child abuse and this ignorance we held in commonwith the general population. But even when the sordid facts began toseep out we acted with denial, arrogance ,and irresponsibility. Likethe Catholic church we were more interested in denial and keeping upour lofty image of ourselves than facing the ugly truth of ourfailure to protect our children. My hope is that phase of denial andcover ups is beginning to change but taking comfort in such quotes asJagadananda has provided will not serve our attempt to acceptresponsibility for our failure.
I have seven children and of those five suffered sexual abuse at thehands of "devotees"; my two boys and three girls were abused.Vancouver always had a large population of children and therefore mayhave attracted more pedophiles than a community that was not so richin children, but I believe that what happened in Vancouver wasprobably typical of a community that had a lot of children. Both mysons lived in Vrndavanna gurukula for many years and their estimateis that 80% to 90% of the boys there were molested. By the time thatthe scandal began to surface in 1985-86 in Vrndavanna, there was awhole group of teachers who were pedophiles and practically they hada pedophile club. Boys were molested either by teachers or by otherolder boys who had been molested themselves by teachers from an earlyage. There was a large contingent of boys from New Vrndavanna and allreports indicate that the entire New Vrndavanna gurukula was staffedwith hardcore pedophiles headed up by Kirtanananda. Rumours andreports constantly surfaced about widespread abuse horrors in Mayaporas well. And what was the fate of pedophile teachers in the movement?I do not know of any instances where ISKCON authorities brought chargesagainst individuals . Ananta rupa who was assistant headmaster ofVrndavanna gurukula and a blatant, hardcore, unrepentant childmolester was moved to Bombay when reports of his abuse surfaced,where he was given a post as an administrator. There are manyexamples of this kind , where suspected or exposed molesters wereshuffled off to some other temple and the whole thing hushed up. Infact, a little boy of eight years old was the one who blew thewhistle on what was happening in Vrndavanna and although he wasbeaten and reviled for being a dirty little boy there was no teacherbeaten or reviled that I know of. A friend of my eldest son told methat he had written to a friend somewhere else in the world about theabuse going on in Vrndavanna when he was there. Jagadisha heard aboutthis letter in his travels and when he returned to Vrndavanna he metthis boy ( fifteen at the time) on the banks of the Jamuna andslapped him hard across the face and screamed at him for spreadingrumours. I left the temple in 1986 and my children began to talkabout being abused a few months later, once they felt free of theintimidation that they had experienced in the gurukulas and temples( see above paragraph). At that time I consulted a therapist whospecialized in child abuse and was horrified to find out the modusoperandus and characteristics of pedophiles. I was shocked and guiltridden to realize that my children had suffered abuse right under mynose due to my ignorance and complancency. At that time , one of the"devotees" who had abused my children was still present in theVancouver community. He was an old man who I now realized had beenabusing children in Vancouver for years and did services such asfixing children's bike's, running a little ferris wheel, etc, allchild related activities. I made an appointment with Kalakantha whowas then the temple president and informed him that this man, namedPrabhu das, had molested two of my children. He consulted with the"brahminical board " and they decided on the advice of their lawyerthat they could not eject him from the community as he might "sue"the temple. ( Harivilas, the co GBC ,was the only one with the gutsto forbid him the community, which he later did) In that same year adevotee named Ganesh who was a teacher in the gurukula pulled andripped the ear of a five year old girl and a devotee who had leftL.A. under rumours of sexual abuse was made vice president ofVancouver by Kalakantha. I angrily confronted Jagadisha about thesethree events and warned him him that if he didn't do anything, Iwould. One of the persons who had molested my children, Sastra dasa (Steve Kapitany) was charged and convicted of molesting my son, onlybecause our son and another boy had the courage to give testimony.The other known molester, Prabhu dasa, was not charged because thepolicy of the courts was that at least two children from differentfamilies had to give solid evidence before charges would be laid.Even though a another little boy came to me and told me that Prabhudasa had abused him, his parents refused to have him speak to atherapist or the police. So it was not just the ISKCON authoritieswho refused to bring charges or eject molesters from the communitybut the general population preferred to hide their heads in the sandof denial rather than open their eyes to ugly reality. In the summerof 1987 I was contacted by a CBC reporter who had been told by someonethat I was angry about child abuse and might be ready to talk aboutit. He asked me if I was ready to talk about it and I agreed in viewof the the above mentioned events and the refusal of the devotees,leaders or otherwise, to act to protect the children. Both mychildren and myself were interviewed on national T.V. about abuse inISKCON. Although time has mellowed me on this issue and I have cometo some sense of forgiveness for myself as an ISKCON devotee andleader who failed my own and other children, and to the devotees whoby their ignorance and fanatacism were complicit in the abuse of ageneration of children, the children have not forgotten. I am on thedefensive now with my own children who have trouble understanding whyI am back associating with devotees in light of what happened tothem. My answer to them is that I believe there is an attempt mow toprotect the children from abusers and some attempt is being made toaddress the past. Also I believe that I have a duty to help educateand work towards a healing in this area. There are many many childrenwho were raised in ISKCON who were abused either in the templecommunities or the gurukula's or both who are now adults. Their storyhas yet to be heard and their feelings must be acknowledged. Probablythey are owed significant reparations and they are certainly owed ourwillingness to hear without denial what happened to them. AsBadrinarayana prabhu recently pointed out, ISKCON is in real dangerof facing massive lawsuits that could bankrupt the society. Iunderstand that the Catholic church in New Mexico is facingbankruptcy. My faint hope is that an effort can be voluntarilymounted by ISKCON and all devotees to reach out to the "lostgeneration" to truly hear their stories, seek their forgiveness, andoffer whatever help, financial and otherwise that we can. Moreover,if we can do this volutarily out of moral responsibility, we might bethe first religious organization to do so and we might be eligiblefor the empowerment of the Lord.
CLICK HERE to read more about this from Bhurijana Prabhu.
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