Getting Out : Seeking Justice
From a SGA Member to Maria and Peter
from Jules - Thursday, January 09, 2003
accessed 2266 times
In May of last year, I and some other people engaged in a discussion with a young adult (K.) who was born and raised in the Family, and is currently a fulltime adult member. K. offered to send a letter to Karen Zerby (Maria) and Steve Kelly (Peter), the current leaders of the Family, outlining our concerns and with recommendations for how these could be addressed by the Family itself.
Please note that while some of the suggestions here are mine (and came from the example of the Hare Krishna movement's reponse to abuse within their organization), as well as another young exer, this letter was compiled and written by the Family member SGA themself.
Although the letter was acknowledged by Zerby and Kelly's secretary as being received, after nearly 8 months, K. has not received an answer on these issues, and has given permission for me to post this letter here. To protect the privacy of the author, I have removed a couple lines in the first paragraph containing personal information.
Wednesday, 15 May 2002
Dear Mama and Peter,
Hi, Iím K., Iím [an SG], and have been in the Family my whole life. ...
The reason Iím writing is because I have a couple of questions, and some suggestions, regarding our stance as the Family on sexual abuse, specifically regarding our policy on if and when offenders should be reported to local authorities.
Iím happy to say that in my time in the Family I have never experienced, or witnessed, any such abuse, and so it was never something to which I gave much thought. Recently I came in contact with some ex-members, and one topic which came up was past and present cases of abuse. I said that current Family policy would mean that any offenders would be excommunicated.
One of them, however, mentioned a specific case in which their sister had recently (in the past 3 months) been sexually abused by her step-father. According to this ex-member, her step-father has been guilty of such offences in the past but despite that he was only given a 3-week probationary period by the leadership (they werenít clear on who.)
Having only heard one side of this story Iím really in no position to formulate an opinion on it. It does seem unusual though, as from what I remember Probation is a disciplinary measure administered by the Home - not leadership - and if it was something administered by the shepherds then the shortest period of Partial Excommunication is 3 months. Anyhow, I donít want to get into the specifics of this case here.
I was first of all surprised to hear that any Family members would be doing that - especially now, after so much has come out in the Word, and after all of the legal battles which we have fought to prove that the Family is a safe environment for children to grow up in. For anyone to do that exhibits a real lack of love and itís saddening to hear that there are still folks in the Family who do so.
The questions I have are what exactly is the Familyís policy in such cases? A couple of the ex-members who were involved in this discussion had some suggestions, and I have some of my own as well. Maybe all of this has already been covered in a GN, since Iíve never been involved in anything along these lines I could well have forgotten any specific counsel regarding it.
First of all here are some suggestions from one ex-member, I promised that I would convey their concerns and suggestions. Iíve included my own thoughts on them as well [below in brackets]:
1. Establish an internal child protection service to investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour by adults towards minors. This would be an objective 3rd party group of qualified Family members. There are medical doctors in the Family, for example who would make excellent candidates for this, (I met a Dr. Chris in LA in what was then the "Sizzlers" home). IMO, having complaints investigated or handled by the parties involved (ie: the shepherds of the alleged offender) is not very objective or fair to the child, whose best interests should be considered first and foremost. The members of this body should be adults without even a hint of impropriety in their past to avoid any possible conflicts of interest (ie: not even unsubstantiated rumours about them).
(K.: While I think this would be a good idea, it does seem a little impractical on quite that scale. Perhaps it could be one of the responsibilities of the Children & Parenting Board?)
2. If there is sufficient evidence presented to this internal investigative body to conclude that abuse actually occurred, the adult in question should be immediately removed from the Family, and the evidence turned over to the appropriate authorities. (I think they should be removed on a permanent basis, but the Hare Krishnas have a 5 year waiting period for reapplication for membership for anyone who has ever been terminated for these types of offences.)
(K.: This is actually something I was wondering, do we have a policy on how long excommunicated members need to wait before rejoining? Also, regarding turning evidence over to the authorities, do we have a policy on that?)
3. The child who has suffered the abuse should have appropriate resources made available to them to aid recovery and healing from the trauma. This may include professional counselling, medical attention, or at the very least a caring adult, who was not involved in anyway in the incident.
(K.: I would think this would fall under the responsibilities of the Children and Parenting Board, I guess it would also depend on the individual situation, and how many Ďuninvolvedí adults there are available.)
4. Training on recognising and preventing abuse should be made available to all Family members, and all children should be educated on their rights to privacy and their own bodies. (Also, all children should know how to contact the child protection office if they need to without having to go through their parents or any other adults. Perhaps a toll-free number would help.)
(K: Iím pretty sure weíve already done this quite extensively in the Family - perhaps after the person suggesting this left.)
Another ex-member suggested the following:
I think a Family equivalent short of calling in the local authorities is to excommunicate the person involved. If he is later allowed to rejoin, then every home that he visits to afterwards should be notified of his tendencies and he should not be allowed to be alone with children. I think that if the parents of the children want to press official charges, they should not be refrained from doing so, and instead should be encouraged to do what they feel is best for their children (or if the child is old enough to press charges on his/her own, they should be aided at all costs).
This is actually more along the lines of what I would suggest myself - in other words some kind of system whereby the VSís would be notified when anyone who has committed such offences, particularly if repeat offenders, moves into their area. Perhaps it could be something in the Clearance Request Form, to state that ĎI have not been guilty of any sexual abuse in the past 5 years.í And if they have, then their shepherds could send a report of what victories they have gained since then, etc.
I realise that cases like this can be hard to talk about, due to the embarrassing nature of it all, but I think itís only fair for Homes to have a way of knowing if someone joining their team has those tendencies. In most legal systems, someone who is found guilty of child/sexual abuse is usually not allowed to work with children - for a specified period, at least.
Also, regarding reporting incidents to local authorities, is this something which we have a specific policy on? Is it more or less up to the individuals involved as to whether they report it or not? Might it be a help if something would be mentioned about it in one of the pubs? I guess the goal in doing so would be to deter things like this from happening in the first place by hopefully giving folks a bit more Ďfear of the Lordí about it.
I guess it could also work in our favour if we were ever faced with legal action in the future, if we could show from our publications that our members are encouraged to report abuse cases to the authorities.
Anyhow, I donít want to take up too much of your precious time with this. As Iíve said, Iím not personally aware of any such cases, and I would think (and hope) that they are few and far between. Iím sure there are other issues which are more widespread or pressing right now. But I think it could be worth it - even if for only one childís sake, as itís just totally against all that the Family stands for, and a shame that itís even an issue now.
Much love! Iím keeping you, and all the dear WS personnel, in my prayers. God bless.
Reader's comments on this article
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Thursday, May 01, 2003 - 12:48
I just wanted to comment on how impressed I am with this letter . I solely am for it ,I think it's not only necessary but
would prevent these things from happening ,and put to justice the F**king bastards who deserve to be locked up behind iron bars for life. Rather then letting them off innocently scot free.
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Thursday, February 13, 2003 - 18:52
I believe your suggestion it's very good posed.
I personaly never experienced child abuse or saw any of that, but this doesn't mean and didn't happen caused it did! to ppl very dear to me and some friends or children of friends.
When I was in the fam this was a big consern for me, in my case I new exactly who the child molesters in my area were and made sure my kids never went to their houses ''to play with their kids'',(once this guy kept insinting on my doughter going to ''play with his''doughter.I mean the guy even bathered to call like three times untill I got on the phone) but the info wasn't always there for everyone to know which i think it's wrong, in the first place they shouldn't even have been in the group any more.But they were.
When the step father of my wife came to our area I made sure and left it very clear with him that there was no way he would put a foot on my house.
This is the stand i've always taken with these sick ppl.
The excuse the fam has for this is that these kind of things happen everywhere, but if you ''hear from the lord every day''or live in a way which makes you feel so close to god how come you end up doing these horrible things????!.
I mean i have children, and to have to worry about child abuse in the fam was just sad, at list out you know where you stand and don't trust ppl but in the fam you never knew.i think if they find out about dishonest abuse they shouldn't just take this ppl out of the fam but put them in jail and definitly report them to the authorities.
I think they don't do it because it'll prove that child abuse still exists or happens in the group.
It's sad that this happens in the fam and it's even sader to hear that even some SGAs have been gealty of such behavior too,specialy knowing the kind of traumatic expirience some of their pears had to faced in the past.
I hope the fam can realise how much some children sufferd in the hands of these sick pervers and can once and for all provide for those inocent children with in the group a safe place to grow untill they can deside to fly on their own.
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Friday, January 10, 2003 - 21:26
I have recently talked to my brother who is still in "The Family", about this subject. And he as well as every one in his home will not except that any of these allegations are true, or at least that is what they claim. (And I'm sure that is what they have been directed to tell outsiders) I believe that you will not get an answer because these things have been addressed by TF and they do not want to deal with the issue any more. So Zerby will ignore you in regard to this matter. The only way that you or anyone else will get any kind of answer is if you make them have to answer, i.e. in a court of law. Thanks to TF being taken to court in the past the child abuse has been limited and some what stopped. Not because TF thought it was wrong but only because they knew that if they continued to practice child adult sex and other forms of abuse they would be spending time in prison. If you ever do get an answer it will not be a direct answer. You may get a legal line of BS that uses jargon and confusing language, but nothing set in stone.
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Friday, January 10, 2003 - 16:15
After 20-30 years, and having grown up in the family, questions we never answered, only deflected. Do you really think things will change?
A guilty person dont give straight answers. "Let your yeas be yeas and nays be nays", maybe if they lived on the street they'd practise what they preach.
You wont get an answer out of these people I figured that out when I was 8!
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Friday, January 10, 2003 - 13:21
What is most depressing about this is that I am in the process of drafting a letter to Zerby asking her to address the past issues and help us to 'move on'. The fact that this person has not received a reply in 8 months makes me feel that I shouldn't bother. But I will! At least I can say that I died trying and then no one can accuse me of not doing my part. When speaking to some leaders recently, they of course said, "have you written to Mama?" We were like "no, cause everyone else has and all they get is trouble". They 'encouraged' us to write anyway.
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Friday, January 10, 2003 - 00:14
it's just so fucking sad that they have to plead and beg for basic rights that "systemite" children have and are very aware of! I know because I went to public school and I live in the "system." And it's sad that the SGAs are so naive that they don't know what the policies are, whether or not any of this still occurrs, or what on earth to do if it does.
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