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.
Go to the Child Abuse Page
It is clear that this grant program is successful in helping young adults who grew up in ISKCON advance economically and psychologically.
As of the printing of this newsletter, we have now funded over $60,000 in grants.
In an ongoing effort to keep our ISKCON society informed of the activities of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection, we would like to provide you with this report:
Recently, we sent out our first newsletter, "Nrsimha-Vyapasrayah", to gurukula veterans, temple presidents and GBCs around the world. Here are some excerpts from the newsletter:
Nrsimha - Vyapasrayah
The Newsletter of the Office of Child Protection
Dedicated to Protecting Children in ISKCON
"I want that a new generation of devotees shall carry on this great mission successfully." Srila Prabhupada.
By now, many of you may be aware that the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (IOCP) exists. Some of you may have seen updates posted on Chakra, some of you may have met with Dhira Govinda prabhu and Yasoda prabhu at the LA gurukuli reunion during the summer of 1998, and some of you may have applied for a grant from IOCP.
This article will give a better idea how this office was formed, its beginnings, and some of the things we've been doing since our first days in April of '98. I think it's important to mention that the gurukula veterans played a key role in bringing about the establishing of IOCP.
What follows is an excerpt from an article written by Dhira Govinda prabhu for the December issue of ISKCON Communications Journal. The article gives a brief history of how the office started and describes its primary functions:
Das's (1998) article brings us to the point of the Mayapur meetings of the Governing Body Commission (GBC) in early 1998, when resolutions were enacted that created and funded the ISKCON Child Protection Office (CPO). Functions of this office are outlined in the Child Protection Task Force Report. The ISKCON Child Protection Task Force, consisting of ISKCON leaders, members of the second generation, as well as devotee professionals including a lawyer and a social worker, was established by the GBC in 1997. This Task Force suggested many proposals for protecting children in ISKCON and addressing mistakes of the past, and all of its proposals were accepted as ISKCON policy by the GBC at the 1998 Mayapur meetings.
Central to implementing the proposals of the Task Force is the CPO, which began operations on April 1, 1998. The Task Force asked this author to serve as Director of the CPO, and I agreed. My experience in the area consists of eight years working in Pennsylvania and Florida in mental health and social service fields such as crisis-intervention, foster care, and medical social work. Educationally, I hold a B.Sc. in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University, an MSW from Florida State University, and currently I'm a candidate for a Ph.D. in Social Work at Florida State University. Also, for approximately the past five years I've provided counseling and social services, including child abuse investigations, for the Vaisnava community in Alachua County, Florida.
There are three primary functions of the CPO, two of which address past negligence in the area of child protection, and the third deals with arranging systems to prevent recurrence of the same mistakes. The first function is to care for those who suffered mistreatment while they were children in the movement. Second, the CPO is mandated to resolve past and present cases of child abuse. The third function entails helping ISKCON schools, temples, and projects to screen volunteers and employees, as well as to implement educational programs on child protection for children, parents, teachers, managers, and other members of ISKCON.
Care for Abuse Victims
The CPO provides support for survivors of child abuse in the movement. A major form of support is funding, up to about $2,000 per person, for educational and vocational endeavors, as well as for therapy. Thus far, as of October 1, 1998, the office has dispersed about $30,000* for these purposes to victims of child abuse. All those who suffered maltreatment in ISKCON while they were children are eligible for grants from the CPO, and criteria for approving applications and determining amounts include severity of abuse, efforts of the individuals to assist themselves, purpose for which the funds will be used, financial situation of the applicant, and availability of funds. From talking with abuse survivors and their parents it is clear that this grant program is successful in helping young adults who grew up in ISKCON advance economically and psychologically, as well as in fostering an appreciation among gurukula veterans and their friends and parents for the sincerity of ISKCON about acknowledging and rectifying errors of the past. For example, one recipient who received CPO funds for medical school pledged, without being in any way pressured, that he would generously support ISKCON monetarily when he becomes a doctor.
From the articles of Rochford (1998) and Das (1998) there is an apparent trend for ISKCON to increasingly realize with each passing year the extent of its historical child abuse problem. This trend has continued since the formation of the CPO, and hopefully also with this article. After six months of working with the CPO it is evident that the numbers of victims and perpetrators of child abuse is much greater than the numbers estimated by the Task Force. Thus, while the program to care for victims of child abuse has produced inspiring results, only a small fraction of the task is completed. Most victims have not yet been reached by this program. It is hoped that ISKCON will realize its moral obligation to these persons, and that this realization will continue to manifest in the form of monetary support.
"While the program to care for victims of child abuse has produced inspiring results, only a small fraction of the task is completed."
Resolving Cases of Abuse
Dedication to mend past egregiousness is also demonstrated by a system for resolving child abuse cases. Through this system wrongs are acknowledged, and such acknowledgment plays a large factor in the healing process for victims. The CPO receives allegations of child abuse that occurred in ISKCON and investigates them. Results of the investigation are given to an adjudicatory panel. On this panel are child protection judges who are veteran members of ISKCON and have received training in the basic principles of recognizing child abuse.
This training consists of an intensive four-day seminar that includes material on types of abuse, typologies of abusers, investigative procedures, confidentiality, and dealing with personal biases. In July, 1998, a child protection judges training was held in North America, with ten devotees participating in the training. This seminar was conducted by two professional social workers, and included three lectures and discussion sessions by an expert in forensic psychology, a pediatrician and author who specializes in child abuse issues, and a nationally renowned psychologist in the field of counseling for victims of child abuse.
After receiving an investigative case packet, the panel of three judges determines whether there is validity to any of the allegations. If it is decided that at least one of the allegations is true, then the panel meets with the Director of the CPO and the Case Manager for the investigation to ascertain a rectification plan and sentence for the perpetrator. This plan considers factors such as protection of children, personal and institutional moral obligations, the message we send about child protection, punishment, rectification of the perpetrator, opportunity for spiritual advancement and spiritual rectification of the transgressor, Srila Prabhupada's vision for ISKCON, practicality of enforcement, and the integrity of ISKCON.
Additionally, the rectification plan addresses issues such as restitution and care for victims, prohibition and allowance of the perpetrator to participate in various services and functions, residence at ISKCON temples and schools for the perpetrator, leadership positions prohibited to the perpetrator, and restrictions on services connected with children. The most extreme sentence that can be imposed by the CPO is complete ex-communication from ISKCON.
As an example of a typical sentence, a person determined to have fondled a child may be banned for lifetime from leading official ISKCON functions, such as kirtanas or classes, but may be permitted, if proper remorse is shown and therapy is obtained, to attend public functions such as festivals, on the condition that no former victims of the perpetrator, or their parents, are attending the function. Also, the perpetrator may be required to pay restitution to the victims, and to keep the CPO informed of his/her whereabouts.
It should be noted that the investigative and adjudicative procedures of the CPO are not a replacement for the functions of state authorities. The CPO merely determines the relationship of an alleged perpetrator with ISKCON. All temples, schools and projects are directed and assisted by the CPO to learn the laws of their locality regarding child abuse and mandated reporting of child abuse, and to scrupulously follow those laws. Since governments and police departments generally won't determine whether, for instance, a perpetrator can, at any time in the future and at any location in the world, give a Srimad-Bhagavatam class in a temple, or teach sixth grade in a gurukula, the CPO exists for these functions. (To be continued in the next issue)
* As of the printing of this newsletter, we have now funded over $60,000 in grants.
Since April of 1998, when the Office first opened, we have processed several cases of past child abuse through the adjudicatory system. Due to space we were unable to print the entire decisions in the newsletter. Here are the complete Official Decisions in two of the cases completed in 1998:
Srutadeva dasa - (Robert Kaufman)
This judgment, rendered on August 26, 1998, is the official decision of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (IOCP) on the child abuse case of Srutadeva dasa.
In 1994 Srutadeva dasa was convicted in the State of California for molesting a girl, who was 12 years old at the time of the most recent incident of sexual molestation, which occurred on July 24, 1993. Incidents of molestation occurred for 3-3.5 years prior to the most recent incident. This molestation involved various forms of fondling, including touching the victim's genitals and making the victim touch his genitals.
Court records and other documentation relevant to this case are on file with the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection.
The ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection has determined that, as a result of Srutadeva dasa's acts of child sexual molestation:
1) Srutadeva dasa must show this document to the Temple President of any temple he visits, or the manager of any ISKCON project he visits, and obtain a signed statement that the president or manager has read this decision. Srutadeva shall send the signed copy of the decision to the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection. If Srutadeva only visits a temple once or twice during public functions, such as Sunday Feasts, then he does not need to obtain a signed statement from the temple president or manager. If he visits a temple more than two times, then he must obtain such a signed statement.
2) Once such a signed statement has been obtained, Srutadeva can perform services for the temple or project according to the discretion of the temple president or project manager.
3) Whenever Srutadeva attends an ISKCON temple, he must do so in the association of his wife. If she dies or initiates separation or divorce, Srutadeva must reapply to the IOCP. Any exceptions to this restriction must be strictly situational and approved in advance by the temple president.
4) Srutadeva is not permitted to lead kirtan in an ISKCON temple or project for the next two years.
5) Srutadeva is not permitted to give classes on Krishna conscious philosophy in ISKCON temples. This stricture also directs that Srutadeva cannot hold ISKCON positions such as Temple President, GBC, or diksa guru. He can hold other positions, according to the discretion of ISKCON authorities.
6) For the indefinite future, he should maintain ongoing visits with a therapist trained in addressing the issues of child abusers. He should have a session with such a therapist at least once every six months, and send documentation of his visits to the CPO or local GBC.
7) Except for legally permitted family visits, he should strictly avoid association with minors in or out of ISKCON.
8) If any of his ex-wives or children attend a function at an ISKCON temple, he must leave the premises, unless he has obtained written permission from them. He is not to pressure or attempt to force them to provide such permission.
9) He is not permitted to reside or stay overnight on an ISKCON property, though he may attend temple functions, such as Mangala-arati, Srimad-Bhagavatam Class, Sunday Feasts, Ratha yatras and other festivals.
10) He must fulfill all financial obligations to his family members until his children are of legal age. We recommend that he continue to financially help his daughter whom he abused. We also recommend that he make donations to Children of Krishna or other organizations that serve Vaisnava youth.
If Srutadeva breaks any of these injunctions, then he can have no association with ISKCON temples or projects until his case is reviewed by the IOCP.
These judgments constitute the minimum restrictions that an ISKCON organization may place on Srutadeva dasa. Any specific ISKCON organization may choose to place stricter restrictions. However, it is expected that all ISKCON entities will consider these decisions of the IOCP before imposing more stringent limitations, as the constraints prescribed herein are deemed to be sufficient with regards to child protection.
It should be noted that Srutadeva has:
- admitted to the molestations
- cooperated with legal authorities
- properly served time, probation, and obtained counseling as prescribed by law - shown remorse and willingness to reform
- shown a cooperative spirit with this office.
Muralivadaka dasa - (Michael Mager)
This judgment, decided on December 31, 1998, was rendered in accordance with the guidelines for adjudicating cases of child abuse established by the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report, ratified by the ISKCON Governing Body Commission. This judgment is the official decision of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (IOCP) on the child abuse case of Muralivadaka dasa (Michael Mager).
Based on signed statements of victims as well as interviews with victims, this adjudicatory panel has determined that Muralivadaka dasa fondled and attempted to fondle four pre-adolescent boys while he was serving as teacher or headmaster in the school that these boys attended. These transgressions occurred over a period of several years, ending in 1989. They happened in various locations, including Lake Huntington, New York, Port Royal, Pennsylvania, and Alachua, Florida, where Muralivadaka was headmaster of a school. Muralivadaka dasa has admitted to these inappropriate sexual acts with the four children.
The IOCP has determined that, as a result of Muralivadaka dasa's acts of child sexual molestation:
1) Muralivadaka dasa should not visit ISKCON property, or the property of organizations affiliated with ISKCON, or attend ISKCON functions, or the functions of organizations affiliated with ISKCON, including activities such as ratha yatras and harinamas, till Feb. 1, 2003. This date is five years after Muralivadaka was asked to leave ISKCON property as a result of allegations of child sexual abuse. Also, till this date he should not perform service for ISKCON or ISKCON affiliates in any official capacity. After Feb. 1, 2003, Muralivadaka may visit ISKCON property, perform service for ISKCON, and attend ISKCON functions under the guidelines specified below.
2) Muralivadaka must show this document to the Temple President of any temple he visits, or the manager of any ISKCON project he visits, and obtain a signed statement that the president or manager has read this decision. Muralivadaka shall send the signed copy of the decision to the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection. If Muralivadaka visits a temple only once or twice during public functions, such as Sunday Feasts, then he does not need to obtain a signed statement from the temple president or manager. If he visits a temple more than two times, then he must obtain such a signed statement.
3) Once such a signed statement has been obtained, Muralivadaka can perform services for the temple or project according to the discretion of the Temple President or project manager.
4) If any of Muralivadaka's abuse victims or their family members attend a function at an ISKCON temple, he must leave the premises, unless he has obtained written permission from them. Similarly, Muralivadaka should not reside in the same community as any of his former abuse victims or their family members unless he has obtained written permission from them. He should not pressure or attempt to force them to provide such permission.
5) Muralivadaka should not lead kirtana or give class on Krsna conscious philosophy on ISKCON property or at an ISKCON function.
6) He should not reside or stay overnight on ISKCON property, though, after Feb. 1, 2003, he may attend temple functions such as Mangala-arati, Srimad-Bhagavatam Class, Sunday Feasts, Ratha yatras and other festivals.
7) He should avoid close association with minors in or out of ISKCON.
8) At least for the next three years Muralivadaka dasa should receive therapy from a therapist trained in addressing the issues of child sexual abusers. At least once every six months he should have a session with such a therapist and send documentation of these visits to the IOCP.
9) Muralivadaka dasa should write apology letters to the victims and the parents of the victims. These apology letters should be written on a yearly basis and submitted to the IOCP, not directly to the intended parties. The first letters should be written one year, give or take a month, from the date of this decision. Yearly letters are intended to assist Muralivadaka to remain connected with proper feelings of remorse. These yearly letters should be written through Feb. 1, 2003.
10) As a therapeutic measure, IOCP recommends that Muralivadaka should express in writing his realizations about his child abuse transgressions. These realizations should be written on a yearly basis and submitted to the IOCP or any Vaisnava brahmana in good standing with ISKCON. This recommendation is intended to assist Muralivadaka to remain connected with appropriate emotions connected with his transgressions, and also to facilitate him to establish and maintain a connection with a senior Vaisnava.
11) Muralivadaka should make all efforts to financially compensate the victims of his transgressions.
12) Muralivadaka cannot hold any positions in ISKCON.
If Muralivadaka dasa violates any of these injunctions, then he can have no association with ISKCON temples or projects until his case is reviewed by the IOCP.
These judgments constitute the minimum restrictions that an ISKCON organization may place on Muralivadaka dasa. Any specific ISKCON organization may choose to invoke more stringent restrictions. However, it is expected that all ISKCON entities will consider these decisions of the IOCP before imposing more stringent limitations, as the constraints prescribed herein are deemed to be sufficient with regards to child protection.
Muralivadaka dasa has cooperated with the investigative and adjudicative procedures of the IOCP.
According to the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report, Section 5, in cases where an allegation(s) of child abuse are determined to be valid, the accused may appeal the Official Decision to the GBC Executive Committee and the ISKCON Minister of Justice. The Official Decision described in this document is effective immediately, and the perpetrator must abide by its guidelines during the appeal process, should he choose to appeal this decision.
[End of newsletter excerpts.]
As mentioned in the article "Beginnings", the adjudicatory process involves several steps in order to come to a final decision.
"After receiving an investigative case packet, the panel of three judges determines whether there is validity to any of the allegations. If it is decided that at least one of the allegations is true, then the panel meets with the Director of the CPO and the Case Manager for the investigation to ascertain a rectification plan and sentence for the perpetrator. This plan considers factors such as protection of children, personal and institutional moral obligations, the message we send about child protection, punishment, rectification of the perpetrator, opportunity for spiritual advancement and spiritual rectification of the transgressor, Srila Prabhupada's vision for ISKCON, practicality of enforcement, and the integrity of ISKCON."
Listed here are the many steps involved in the process:
conduct investigation into the alleged abuse and prepare case file for judges (can take anywhere from 2 weeks, to several months)
send copies of case file to judges (3 or 4 days by mail)
judges deliberate on the case, communicate via email & conference calls. (3 to 4 weeks)
a final conference call is arranged, including the 3 judges and the director and/or case manager. During this meeting/conference call the determinations for sentencing/rectification are concluded and a draft copy of the Official Decision is generated by the director of IOCP. draft copy is sent to all judges (generally via email). Judges may make revisions at this time.
Once the revisions are agreed upon by all parties, 2 original copies of the final Official Decision are sent to all judges for signing. (1 week via regular mail)
One original copy is filed at IOCP and the other is sent to perpetrator.
[Note: a list of child-abuse cases and allegations currently under under investigation by the IOCP can be obtained by e-mail from Ijyadasa@aol.com]
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