Friday, July 13, 2018

"Child Protection Office" Success Story (Sanaka Rsi)

[PADA: Justice delayed is justice denied.] 

Laxmimoni will not be appealing the CPO verdict... Exploring the Myth of an independent CPO

Dear devote community,

I am happy to inform you that our campaign to discourage further interference of senior devotees in the adjudication of Laxmimoni devi dasi, has been an unexpected success. I can now confirm that Laxmimoni devi dasi will not appeal the verdict issued by the CPO.

This is another huge victory and a significant milestone for the victims of child abuse in ISKCON. We were all witness to the shenanigans that took place when the CPO issued a guilty verdict for Laxmimoni devi dasi.

Sadly, some very senior and influential members of ISKCON’s leadership, jumped at her defense for no good reasons. All of a sudden we saw some devotees that in their entire devotional career had never taken any interest in the procedures of the CPO or child protection in general, express a keen interest in the fairness of its procedural justice.

The devotees that have inappropriately interceded with the CPO in the attempt to mitigate the sanctions imposed on Laxmimoni are; Hridayananda Maharaj, Malati prabhu, Brahmatirtha prabhu, Anuttama prabhu, Praghosa prabhu and Radha dasi.

These devotees enjoy special privileges and influence within ISKCON on account of their seniority, position and status, it was an abuse of power on their part to attempt to pressure and sway the CPO into changing its proceedings in favor of their friend.

Many senior and experienced CPO judges turned down this service on account of the friendships and professional acquaintance they had developed with Laxmimoni over the years working together on CPO cases. However one person did NOT. Besides Radha dasi’s personal friendship with Laxmimoni, they also served together on ISKCON’s Vaishnavi / Women Ministry. 

Radha dasi had the professional responsibility to make her friendship and acquaintance with Lamimoni known and recuse herself from any involvement with Laxmimoni’s adjudication. But instead she went ahead and accepted the service of Case Manager.

As a Case Manager for Laxmimoni, her job was to collect the statements of the victims and present them to the CPO Director, without expressing personal opinions on the merits of these testimonies or otherwise try to influence the outcome of the case.
She went as far as telling some of the victims that their testimonies were “inadmissible”. Which was clearly beyond her competence; for it is the job of the judges to establish and comment on the merits of any testimonies submitted.
She also sent to Laxmimoni’s victims, the letters of character reference that some former students and colleagues wrote in support of Laxmimoni, marked as “witness statements”. 

This is not only unprofessional, and again showed her clear bias, but it also added insult to injury for Laxmimoni’s victims. Radha dasi is a Harvard lawyer, it is reasonable to assume that she is very aware of the difference between a character reference and a witness statement. It is difficult to give her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t aware of the implications of her actions.

Her unprofessional and hostile behavior discouraged some of the victims from submitting their testimonies to the CPO. She may have thus influenced the outcome of the case so as to award a more lenient sentence to Laxmimoni.
Given her prior friendship with Laxmimoni, when Radha dasi accepted to serve as Case Manager she breached the code of professional integrity expected of CPO officers. Her involvement and actions may have compromised the integrity of the adjudication.

On account of her unprofessional conduct she ought to be banned from any further involvement with the CPO. The real problem is that some GBC members were left in utter disbelief by their inability to force the CPO Director to compromise the integrity of Laxmimoni’s adjudication to suit their whims and demands.

This concerned them greatly, so much so, that they have decided that a CPO director that will not bend the rules at their command must be replaced.
I can confirm that the GBC has already decided that at the October meetings they will unceremoniously remove the current CPO Director and replace him with somebody with a more flexible moral compass and a “more accommodating” understanding of child protection.

In their official statement the GBC Executive committee informed the devotee community that they will be revising the structure and policies of the CPO. “In response to concerns that some aspects of the CPO’s operation may have been faulty, the GBC Body is duty-bound to undertake a further analysis of the CPO structure. For this purpose, we are in the process of forming a committee of experts to study our CPO procedures”.

Now, in theory all this sounds very good of course. The concerning part is the historical lack of transparency and integrity we have witnessed in many of the instances when the GBC has been involved in child protection.

I am concerned that in the near future we may see a restructured CPO, with a more GBC friendly Policy and Procedure Manual and a figurehead CPO director that will march in tune with the GBCs’ drums. And naturally, we can expect a blaring memorandum on Dandavats and ISKCON News, that finally, we can all be at ease, knowing that the new CPO is “truly effective and independent". This seems to be the plan of the GBC…

Let’s make sure this does not turn out into another embarrassing sham. It is imperative that the CPO comes out improved and strengthened by these proposed changes. We can only hope to achieve this if we ensure that none of the individuals that will select the members of the review committee, and the committee members themselves, have any history of tolerating, enabling or protecting child abuse. Believe it or not, this would rule out many GBC members!

It is time that ISKCON invests some good money in child protection. At least some of the members of the committee must be professionals in the field of child protection, with no less than 10 years experience working in the sector. The committee needs to address effective ways to discourage the interference of senior and influential members of ISKCON in CPO adjudications. 

ISKCON is at a crucial turning point, we have the opportunity to transform our child protection policies so as to bring them to world class standards. This can only happen if the upcoming overhaul of the CPO is carried out with the utmost transparency, integrity and accountability. The credibility and effectiveness of both the CPO and the GBC are on the line here.

Let’s make a wise decision.

Yours in the service of Vaisnavas


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