CPO & REVIEW PANEL PROCESS
As a consequence of a Task Force Report, the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (CPO) has set up systems for follow-through and review accusations of child abuse connected with the Movement. However, the CPO advises all devotees to learn, follow, and fully cooperate with their local laws concerning reporting suspicions of child abuse, and the internal ISKCON system is not meant to replace governmental social service and law enforcement systems. Rather, the internal ISKCON system is ecclesiastical in nature. In other words, it is designed to address spiritual issues and ramifications that state systems will not.
For example, even if a child abuser is convicted and serves time in prison, when he is released, the government authorities will not directly concern themselves with whether he is permitted to give a Srimad-Bhagavatam class in an ISKCON temple, or join the staff of a gurukula, or hold a position of leadership within the Movement. As members of ISKCON, dedicated to protecting the children of our spiritual society and preserving the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s organization, we are naturally concerned with these things. Also, many cases,( for various reasons, such as duration of time elapsed and unwillingness of the alleged victims to press charges), will never be heard in the state court system. Still, we want to assure that accusations are dealt with responsibly within our spiritual society.
By January 2014 the CPO had received accusations of child abuse allegedly committed by more than 300 alleged perpetrators. When an accusation is received, the CPO works with leaders in the devotee community to handle the situation in a balanced and fair way. The system involves sending a case, after it has been thoroughly followed-through with interviews and other tools, to a panel of trained child protection Review Panel Members. The CPO has conducted fourteen Child Protection Review Panel trainings, from the United States to India, to Europe to South America, training more than 104 Review Panel Members. More than 80 of these cases had been fully processed through the tribunal system delineated in the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report, resulting in the issuance of Official Decisions for these cases. Other cases have been determined by the CPO Director to be either based on evidence that is too unsubstantial to pursue, or, after interviews and research, based on evidence that is false, and thus these cases have been closed. (There have not been Official Decisions issued for these cases because to do so would unnecessarily spread false rumors against innocent devotees.)
After a case is resolved by an Official Decision, the case is far from being over in regards to the CPO’s involvement. Many of the decisions require close follow-up on items such as requirement of a psychological evaluation for the perpetrator, restitution payments, enforcement of restrictions on perpetrators, and inquiries about the decision from devotees, to name a few.