ISKCON Child Protection Office under attack
Hare Krishna. ISKCON’s Child Protection Office is under assault by a small group of influential devotees who claim that it is biased against the accused. I find their accusations hard to believe. Several articles are appearing on the Sampradaya Sun and on Chakra.
The first article, titled “Snake Oil, Scapegoats, and the Hare Krishnas: The CPO’s Use of Bogus Science,” appeared on Sampradaya Sun over the weekend. I wanted to get a response out ASAP, so I wrote a letter to Rocana Prabhu that was published under the title, “CPO Official Decision on Vakresvara Pandit.”
A few days later I submitted a more thorough article titled “In Support of the Child Protection Office.” That article is copied below, with the related documents included for download:
Hare Krishna. Following up after my initial article countering Visnugada Prabhu’s misleading and incorrect facts related to the guilty verdict in the child molestation case against Vakresvara Pandit Prabhu, a few critical points are herein presented supporting the Child Protection Office’s verdicts in this case. But first we must briefly revisit Visnugada’s dreadful proposal to disempower the CPO.
“I also believe they didn’t understand the fact that in the US, as in many other countries, the functions of the CPO are, for the most part, already being carried out by civil authorities. Our position was it was unnecessary and legally unwise for the CPO to try to duplicate those functions.”
It is common knowledge that well over 500 former gurukula children in ISKCON are reported to have been beaten, raped, and/or abused in other abominable ways. Does anyone know how many perpetrators have faced criminal prosecution? I heard one relatively unknown “devotee” went to jail for child abuse. Maybe there were more that I have not heard of, but one thing is for certain: ISKCON is not famous for reporting criminal deviants to the police. On the contrary, we keep hearing of this or that rapist who gets moved to another temple or another country where the same activities are perpetuated. Visnugada’s proposal is to make ISKCON a haven for child abusers, as if it’s not bad enough.
“In fact, in the Vakresvara case, the civil authorities did investigate at the time of the alleged offense and concluded there was no case to pursue.”
As I mentioned in my previous article, that statement is blatantly false. This was an issue of several counts of statutory rape over nearly a year. The child reported it when she was an adult several years after the alleged sexual encounters. The Texas State Police did not purse it because neither of the persons involved lived in Texas when it was reported, it had been years since the alleged crimes. These were good enough reasons for the police not to investigate. However it’s natural and right that ISKCON should be more concerned about alleged rapists in our community posing as devotees.
“In the Vakresvara Pandit case, instead of weighing the actual evidence, the judges were directed instead to use a junk science method, the SCAN-View Questionnaire.”
I have not been privileged to read the entire case file, but I have carefully scrutinized key documents that have been made available and discussed the facts with both CPO Directors. The Official Decision describes the testimonies of the accused and the alleged victim with comparisons of the consistencies and other analyses of their reliability, including the employment of a “renowned expert in forensic written content analysis” who stated that the accuser’s testimony showed traits highly consistent with truthfulness. The Official Decision also mentions a questionnaire analyzed by the same expert, who found that Vakresvara’s responses indicated deception. Questioning a complainant and the accused can hardly be considered irregular.
The document goes on to describe several inconsistencies in the accused’s testimony. According to the Official Decision, these contradictions, verified by expert analysis, coupled with a consistent presentation of facts by the alleged victim, formed substantial basis for determining guilt.
“We found people whose testimony could have exonerated Vakresvara weren’t even interviewed, despite the CPO having been informed.”
What is the meaning of this vague claim? The accuser reported, “We did have sex around seven or eight times” over the course of about a year while she was 13 and 14 years old. Whose testimony could have alleviated Vakresvara’s self-incrimination? It’s easy to imagine how they would try. I know of a few big sannyasi gurus on the GBC who would say “He didn’t do it” and expect the CPO to beg their forgiveness. What ISKCON devotee would go against them? Anyone familiar with ISKCON knows the social effect that the resultant accusations of ‘Vaisnava aparadha’ would have. Who would be willing to call the sannyasi-guru-GBCs liars when they’re sticking up for their old buddy? I challenged some of these “gurus” a few years ago after they rolled out the red carpet for Vakresvara at my local temple, and the gurus’ many disciples were absolutely brutal.
I’ve also had several devotees contact me to say that Vakresvara was undoubtedly having sex with this child, that the nature of their relationship was too obvious to hide among the devotees in the area at that time. I’ve heard this from some devotees whom I did not know at all, others whom I knew somewhat over the Internet, and also from my trusted personal friends. None said they were interviewed by the CPO, and I don’t see why they should have been. The primary witnesses for these “bedroom” activities would naturally be the complainant and the accused, and it makes sense for a proper investigation to have been focused on these two individuals.
As stated in the appeal verdict:
“xi. There is no evidence that the original panels of judges neglected any statements that directly or indirectly project doubt, or remove doubt, concerning the character of the claimant or the defendant.
xii. A number of statements have been made to the effect that the original panel of judges neglected to consider certain pieces of evidence. However there is no proof for such a statement and such an accusation appears to be based solely on the fact that a guilty verdict was given to the defendant.”
Visnugada undermines the credibility of his “professional opinion” with this declaration:
“In my professional opinion, the CPO has never properly investigated the possibility that Vakresvara Pandita and others may have been falsely accused.”
The first investigation into this question went from December 4, 2000, to July 26, 2002, and resulted in a guilty verdict. (Apparently “properly” can only mean a not-guilty verdict in Visnugada’s opinion, though I can’t help but wonder about the nature of his relationship with Vakresvara Pandit if he presumes to know about Vakresvara’s sex life with such certainty.) Vakresvara Pandit had an attorney, Sesa Prabhu, who was presumably competent to raise any relevant issues in his defense. The complainant was not represented by an attorney, so it’s rather ridiculous to suggest that Vakresvara was disadvantaged by anything other than guilt.
After the original determination of Vakresvara Pandit’s guilt, an appeal was filed on his behalf and the matter was decided on June 8, 2005. The Defense made numerous claims attempting to undermine the finding of guilt, but the appeal judges found each of them to be without merit and upheld the original decision.
As stated in the appeal verdict:
“The appeal judges found no evidence supporting the claims that there was prejudicial treatment of Vakresvara Pandit das in the initial hearing of this case.”
Here it should be noted that this was after resignation of the CPO Director under whose authority the initial finding of guilt was made, so this was an entirely new CPO that ultimately determined the original CPO judges had made no mistake in this case.
In fact, the only findings the Appeals Judges determined in Vakresvara Pandit’s favor was to say that the rectification plan was too severe, based on the fact that the original judges failed to consider that it was a case of “consensual sex with a minor.” As it turned out, the Appeals Judges were in error on this point, as they had failed to realize that there is no such thing as “consensual sex with a minor.” Nowhere in the United States is a thirteen-year-old child legally able to give consent to sex. That is why it’s commonly called “statutory rape.” As Tamohara Prabhu (CPO, GBC) wrote to me on July 19, 2005:
“You are correct regarding ‘consensual sex with a minor’. Another devotee lawyer pointed this out, that there is no such thing as consent, as a minor is assumed to not have the maturity to give consent. I will change this wording in the decision, as it is legally incorrect.”
Bear in mind we’re talking about a 40-year old man repeatedly having sex with a 13-year young girl.
The appeal judges had also failed to consider the fact that Vakresvara Pandit had been in violation of his rectification plan the entire time of his supposed restrictions, even to the point of being Temple President of Puerto Rico, in gross contradiction of the Official Decision, during which time he was also found guilty of additional offenses resulting in another official decision against him. Following the original appeal verdict, the CPO was shown these facts and thereby forced to revise their ruling accordingly.
That devotees are still calling for this man to be exonerated, presenting their own twisted facts, is astonishing and reeks of corruption. If not for ISKCON’s shameful history of child abuse, it would be beyond belief.
The relevant documents are attached (in “Word” format). Hare Krishna.
Official Decision in the Case of Vakresvara Pandit das - July 26, 2002 (234)………….
Official Decision on the Appeal Case of Vakresvara Pandit das - June 8, 2005 (217)………….
Note of Clarification in the Sentencing of the Appeals Judges' Official Decision of Vakresvara Pandit das (237)………….
Sincerely, your servant,