Child Abuse - Keep up the Effort
Posted August 15, 2004
:Reply to Bhaktin Mirriam
Thank you for your frank analysis. Please continue the wonderful work you are doing and do not feel intimidated by anyone. From the mood in which you write I can see you really wish to help ISKCON to reform, and you are not merely a fault-finder. I can believe many of the things you say may be true, shocking as they may be, simply from my own experiences. We run a school in Ghana, and thank Krishna we have not had any child-abuse problems in the school (thanks to the wonderful compilation of documents we received from the Child Protection Office we have been extra vigilant), but there have been severe cases in the adjacent temple, which are constantly a cause for concern for me. And just as you said - devotees and leaders cover up their friends.
In the first case here, a pujari, 50 years old, raped an 11 year old girl who was resident in the temple with her mother. This happened after the same devotee had already been suspected of child molestation in the past, after the same devotee had physically hit a mataji with a stone, and after several complaints about his character had been lodged, though the authorities did absolutely nothing to reprimand him. First the mother of the raped girl was too intimidated to go to the police, as leaders here did not want it reported, in fear of bad public image, but finally, with the support of and insistence from HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami, she reported the case. However, unfortunately, before the person could be arrested by the police, devotees warned him and allowed him to escape. Since then the victim and her mother have left, and now the perpetrator has again started coming to the temple on Sundays, even staying over in the community with one of the senior devotees (though I have gone to speak to the Regional Director about this and he said he will ban him from visiting the temple). However, there are many devotees here who actually have come to ask that the devotee should be allowed to return to the temple!
The second case involves, sadly, another pujari, who was committing sodomy with some of the boys in the temple. His acts were known to the devotees in the community for a long time but because of pressure from some senior devotees nothing was done. Recently, at least, many people started complaining in the community and the devotee left the temple on his own, perhaps fearing he might be arrested. For about two weeks now he has not returned.
I cannot supply exact dates and facts to the above cases, as no proper investigation has been done, but the GBC’s here are at least aware of the first case I mentioned, though perhaps they have not been informed that the person is again regularly visiting the temple.
I had previously wanted to write to the CPO about the problems here, but heard it had closed down. Besides, nobody bothers much about what happens in Africa.
It seems the devotees and leaders here too are still unaware of the GBC Policy on Child abuse, and appropriate steps to be taken in case of any abuse case ("all suspected and confirmed cases of child abuse MUST be reported to the government, to the local GBC, to the ISKCON Board of Education" etc.etc.) Perhaps someone can post the latest policy on the net and mail it to all temples.
All I can say is I am sure soooo many things are being covered up in many places, and I can understand the fear of speaking out. Just for writing this I may face great enmity here. But when we leave our bodies, when we stand in front of Krishna or Yamaraj - what will we say about the way we treated all the Lord’s devotees that are so dear to him? "One who betrays the confidence of a living entity who takes shelter of him in good faith… is extremely sinful" (SB6.2.6 purport). Being in charge of the school here it is my duty to protect those who are under my shelter.
"Purity is the force" and as long as ISKCON is not very pure our movement will not become the powerful world-wide movement that Srila Prabhupada had wanted.
Also, it seems there is not much emphasis in ISKCON for the care of children. The lack of facilities, lack of concern and support for schools, lack of training adults in caring for children, lack of children’s books etc. are evidence of this. Children and schools are never a priority in the temples. Here we have been struggling so much to keep the school going, and there are always other projects that take the priority.
We should realise that all over the world fewer and fewer devotees are joining temples. Many temples are almost empty. So where will new devotees come from in future? FROM THE CHILDREN!
Please keep me informed and feel free to contact me for any assistance.
(PS - I would very much like to have the address of Bhn Miriam)
Ila devi dasi
(From Lord Krishna’s Academy, Ghana)