Chakra Discussions

Isolate the Abusers

by Tapati McDaniels

Posted May 26, 2006

I was very sorry to read about Ananda's suicide and his previous abuse by Dhanurdhara Swami. While I am no longer a devotee, I am saddened to see ISKCON continue to allow former abusers to enjoy power and prestige in the movement, and I certainly agree with those who point out that it cannot be taken seriously as a religious movement while doing so. For that matter, the Catholic Church has also become the focus of many jokes because of its similar policies towards abusive priests.

I understand the impulse to allow those who are fallen to continue practicing devotional service in the hopes that one day they will redeem themselves. People who write about this issue always seem to take one side or the other: kick them out or let them serve. I wish to suggest a third course.

Why not set aside or create an isolated farm temple for those who are proven to have committed abuse of any sort towards other devotees? This would include pedophiles, those who beat or physically injure children, and wife-beaters who refuse to get treatment and stop their behavior. No children would be allowed to visit this farm and those who live there will never be allowed to visit temples with children or interact with children from nearby communities. If former abusers genuinely wish to be of service, let them go to this farm and work to create products that can be sold and used to make reparations as well as make the farm self-sufficient.

At some point there should be an expectation that some amends will be made to each victim, directly if the victim allows or indirectly if the victim prefers. This would be more than a letter of apology, though that is a good start.

If abusers refuse to serve or stay at this farm temple, they should not be allowed to visit or live at other temples. If they are sincere in their desire to serve then they will take this offer. If not, then their photo should be on file at all temples worldwide and entry refused.

I would like to add that our forum, www.gaudiya-, has always had an area set aside specifically for former Gurukula students, and we endeavor to be supportive of their issues. Our forum is by and for former devotees, and those who have left the movement can find support there.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Ananda, and I urge Dhanurdhara to respond to their letters in a humble manner -- both for their healing and for his own redemption.

Finally, I have experience as a suicide prevention counselor and have worked also with families who are grieving loss by suicide. If anyone is feeling the need to speak to someone, I can be contacted through my forum, and would be glad to be of service.