Child Protection Office Response to Vrndavana Allegations
Posted September 24, 2004
As Bhima Karma has posted his opinions about the Vrndavana situation, as Director of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection, I wanted to publish the letter I sent to him a few days ago, after I first heard his charges. I think this makes it clear that the Child Protection Office is very concerned about the charges and will investigate. On the other hand, we need to do this in a fair a level-handed manner. For the record, the Vrndavana Child Protection team has, in fact, kept the CPO well informed regarding any abuse cases at the gurukula.
Dear Bhima Karma Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
The charges raised are important and serious. Given the history of Vrndavana gurukula, we are all concerned that the current school should be beyond reproach, and there should never be a repeat of the atrocities of the past, anywhere in ISKCON. My personal goal is that ISKCON should become the standard for responsive, pro-active child protection, and we should be a model for other religious groups. We are far from that currently, but that should be our goal.
Recently, I have received quite detailed reports from Mother Ananda Vrndavana and the Child Protection Team regarding their handling of a couple of cases. The most serious one concerned one teacher, who is mentioned in your letter. From the standpoint of the Central Office, it appears that they handled the situation adequately, as they finally got him to confess, removed him from the school, etc. In addition, we were just discussing bringing the case to a full CPO adjudication, where a panel of judges would review the case, and would be empowered to make further restrictions that are binding throughout ISCKON. I am concerned that abusers are not only restricted from teaching in Vrndavana, but anywhere else as well.
The other teacher mentioned was also dealt with and reported to me. So, I am honestly not convinced there is any conspiracy to allow abuse. I think the problem may be that these incidents were kept fairly quiet, which could give the appearance of a "cover-up." But nonetheless, the CPT did act, and reported their actions to the Central Office of Child Protection. Perhaps the fault is in not being more open in their dealings. Given what many of you ex-gurukulis have experienced, I totally understand your concern when there is the appearance of secrecy or protectionism.
Regardless, I agree with you that there are enough incidents to warrant further investigation and review. Praghosa Prabhu is in agreement, and the next step will be for us to jointly (representing the GBC Executive Committee and the CPO) to begin an investigation. I would like to bring in an independent investigator who could collect all sides of the issues, and bring the findings to the CPO and GBC for action.
I hope that you will find these steps to be adequate. I have heard talk of making this public and giving it wide publicity. Of course, that is your right and choice, but you might consider whether our response is adequate before taking that step.
Again, I want to assure you that the entire purpose and mission of the CPO is to deal with cases of child abuse, work to prevent any further abuse, and educate the devotees in this matter. And I am particularly concerned that we eliminate any further incidents in the Holy Dhamas of Vrndavana and Mayapur. I will await your reply and expression of concerns. Let me know if you think we need to further discuss by phone.