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Hare Krishnas Investigate Past Abuse at Boarding Schools

a news release from ISKCON Communications

The academic journal of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), in its most recent volume, examines allegations of child abuse in Hare Krishna boarding schools in the United States and India during the 1970's and 1980's.

Two scholars, one a Krishna devotee, Bharata Shrestha Das, and the other a sociology professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, Burke Rochford, each contributed an article to the ISKCON Communications Journal. These individuals presented their research which analyzed accusations that ISKCON failed to provide adequate protection for its parochial school students during the society's earliest years. The abuses they outlined were physical, emotional and sexual.
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The New York Times called the report "an unusually candid expose." The Times noted ISKCON's openness, in contrast with other religious organizations including the Roman Catholic Church, which has been criticized for its handling of child abuse.

"This type of problem thrives on secrecy," said Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON National Director of Communications. "We chose to print the articles and bring the allegations out into the open as part of a multi-pronged response to address past problems as well as to help prevent future abuse of our children."

The significance of the problem was first highlighted at a national meeting of ISKCON leaders in May, 1996. At that time, ten young Krishna adults shocked the leadership during a presentation where they shared their personal stories of neglect and abuse.

ISKCON responded by establishing a Child Protection Office staffed with professional social workers; and Children of Krishna, an organization that provides financial assistance for Krishna youth for educational needs and counseling.

The boarding school model, or traditional gurukula system that ISKCON brought from India, has also been modified. ISKCON now operates only day schools in the United States, to facilitate much greater parental involvement and supervision of their children's education.

ISKCON, also known as the Hare Krishna movement, was brought to the west from India in 1965 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, an elderly monk and scholar. ISKCON is part of the Vaishnava religious tradition, a monotheistic branch of the broad Hindu tradition. ISKCON has over 325 temples world-wide, including 45 in the United States. ISKCON also runs 85 vegetarian restaurants, and its Food for Life project is the world's largest vegetarian food relief organization, having served over 75 million free meals since 1974.

CHAKRA 17-Oct-98

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