Do you have questions? Below are some of the frequently asked questions received by the CPO.
Should the question that you have on your mind does not appear below, feel free to contact us.
Q : To what extent does the Child Protection Office have jurisdiction?
A : There are different categories of child abuse allegations, with a range of severity. Less severe
offences should be handled at the local level, by the local Child Protection Team. More severe instances of child abuse allegations may be subject to a CPO Review Panel . However, local Child Protection Teams must consult with the CPO, for questions on how to best handle an incident. In all cases, nonetheless, the CPO should be informed of all complaints received by any ISKCON leader or Child Protection Team.
Examples of Less Severe offenses would include:
a) Neglect that doesn‛t result in serious injury requiring hospitalization/medical attention
or cause lasting psychological or physical damage.
b) Isolated, non chronic event of physical punishment that did not result in injury.
c) One time isolated incidents of psychological abuse that did not result in any long term
trauma to the child.
Q : Does the Child Protection Office usurp the function of the local Police Services?
A : By no means is it that should you report an act of abuse to the ISKCON Child Protection Office that you should not report it to the local Police Service. As stated in secular law, it is the responsibility of every citizen to report acts of child abuse to the local Police and Social Services.
The Child Protection Office serves as an internal process within the ISKCON community and helps to prevent and eradicate child abuse and neglect.
Q : What support does the Child Protection Office offer victims and their families ?
A : ISKCON and its Child Protection Office are concerned for the spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of alleged victims and are committed to promote healing, reconciliation and empowerment. This includes reaching out supportively to victims and to all other persons adversely affected by an abuse incident to communicate sincere commitment to their spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. As far as possible, appropriate counselling, spiritual assistance, and access to support resources and other services should be provided.
Q : What happens when a person has already been convicted on a case of child abuse in the Court of Law?
A : In certain cases, devotees have been found guilty of child abuse in criminal courts. These cases may or may not have involved ISKCON temples and projects. Nevertheless, the individuals, even if now taking up or currently engaging in the process of devotional service, may still constitute a threat to our children, or be considered unsuitable for a position of leadership within ISKCON.
In these cases of clear finding of guilt by the secular legal process, it is not necessary to go through a Child Protection Office Panel Review. Devotees who have been convicted, or found guilty, of sexual or physical child abuse in legitimate criminal or civil court proceedings will be restricted in their relationship with ISKCON temples and projects in the following manner:
i. They may not have any position of leadership within ISKCON.
ii. They may not reside in temples or stay overnight.
iii. They may not give class or lead kirtan in the temple.
iv. They may not engage in service involving children.
v. They may not be present at a temple if their victim(s) are also present (without the victim’s uncoerced consent).
The Director of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection shall verify that they have been found guilty in a criminal court proceeding. Extenuating circumstances that would warrant either the relaxation of the above restrictions, or warrant more strict restriction to the above standards would require review from the CPO Office.
Q : I am in doubt…. perhaps my child is too young to discuss matters relating to ‘safe touch’ and abuse, what should I do?
A : Safe touch programs are presented all over the world as a part of the school curricula. These are designed and structured for the particular age group that it is aimed towards. This is ‘safety education’ and not sex education. As adults we teach children about the various kinds of safety factors whether it is water safety at the beach, road safety when crossing the road, so herein it is our responsibility to teach our children the areas of their body parts that are ‘no go’ areas. No child is too young to learn this. It will also give them the confidence to tell an adult if someone has attempted to touch them in places that they shouldn’t. Rather be safe, than sorry!
Q : There are whispers about alleged abuse within the community. I am aware that we have an active Child Protection Team, but I am concerned that should I reveal this suspicion then I will be implicated. Shall I just remain silent?
A: No! You cannot remain silent. It is not only your duty to Srila Prabhupada but also your responsibility under the secular legal system to bring child abuse / neglect to the attention of the relevant authorities.
The Child Protection Team is trained in dealing with these matters. Confidentiality is a key component.
All parties involved shall treat the proceedings and any related information as confidential, unless otherwise required by law, or where doing so could jeopardize the safety of children.
The CPO will make all reasonable efforts to respect any request for anonymity by confirmed victims.
Mandatory Reporters: Almost every legal system mandates individuals who are legally required to report allegations and suspicions of abuse. Failure to report can result in legal action. Mandatory reporters may include (see local law): (1) physicians licensed to practice medicine, interns, residents, hospital and medical personnel, dentists, podiatrists, registered professional nurses or licensed practical nurses; (2) school teachers, school administrators, school guidance counselors, visiting teachers, school social workers, or school psychologists; (3) licensed psychologists, persons participating in internships to obtain licensing as psychologists, professional counselors, social workers, or marriage and family therapists, child-counseling personnel; (4) child welfare agency personnel (including any child-caring institution, child-placing agency, maternity home, family day-care home, group day-care home, and day-care center), child service organization personnel; (5) law enforcement personnel; (6) persons who process or produce visual or printed matter; (7) some jurisdictions include members of the clergy; and (8) a few US States and some countries include anyone with knowledge of abuse to be a “Mandatory Reporter.”