Chakra Discussions

Stringent child protection protocols needed

by Devahotra das
Tasmania, Australia

Posted October 13, 2004

All over the world, religious and spiritual organisations are having to come to terms with the fact that they attract pedophiles who infiltrate schools, classes, ashrams and temples, churches and the like, to gain the trust of and responsibility over children. The gurukula children, who are now adults, have experienced significant trauma from sexual predators, as well as physical and psychological abuse from those who had no training in teaching and no appreciation of the parental love that is requisite in dealing with children.

Srila Prabhupada exhibited such qualities of care and tender nurture of children. Regrettably that purity and example has not spared ISKCON from sexual predators, ranging from gurus to supposedly celibate brahmacaris. ISKCON has been ill-served by some leaders who have wanted to protect the good name of ISKCON over the need to guarantee protection to children and justice to victims.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse from Christian priests I can share what ISKCON children need. They need the protection that comes from having concrete systems in place, in temples, gurukulas and ashrams to protect them from abuse. They need our movement to foster the spiritual commitment to chastity and renunciation that Srila Prabhupada set and to show zero tolerance -- absolute zero tolerance -- for pedophiles.

It is not enough that a person be supposedly removed from contact with children. They should be dealt with by the civil authorities in the country in which the alleged abuse occurred. If it occurs in India, at the hands of an expatriate, the embassy of the offender's country of origin should be told, as many of them will investigate themselves. The office of Child Protection needs to be fully funded and equipped to intervene and dictate solutions to problems. Temples and ashrams should have Child Protection Teams that are fully independent of the local school, temple or institute, and yatra leaders should submit to the GBC in surrendering autonomy and authority in this regard. If this was done, responsibility would be served and local authorities by cooperating in the process would be vindicated.

No system will ever perfectly screen out serious and serial pedophiles, and it would be unfair for survivors to demand that. If the system of dealing with allegations was transparent, impartial and above local interest issues, administered by a fully equipped, resourced and trained Office of Child Protection, all devotees could sleep easier.

Make no mistake. Financial accountability for the failure to protect children is following moral and legal failure to act reasonably, appropriately and ethically.

ISKCON does not deserve to be hurt by the actions of a degenerate few, hiding behind communities and leaders who despise child abuse, but don't want to be damaged by the outing of pedophiles. ISKCON will be cleaner and better if we can expunge these people. The embarassment and hurt that we as a movement may face, as a result of outing and removing pedophiles is real and regrettable, because ISKCON is so committed to purity, holiness and the very opposite to unbridled and unrestrained lust and power-seeking that pedophiles surrender to. That suffering is nothing, believe you me, compared to the incredible pain and hurt and damage that is the life of a sexually, physically and psychologically traumatised child or young person.