Resources for Sexual Misconduct and Abuse in Buddhist Communities

Below are resources for dealing with misconduct in Buddhist organizations put together scholar Ann Gleig. The following are quotes from a talk she gave on the subject. See comment section for full talk.

“They named their two main concerns as emerging leaders as diversity and inclusion, particularly racial justice, and sexual misconduct with its underlying abuse of power.”

“Whiteness, individualism, and capitalism are intricately linked in the U.S. and, as Black visionary leader Cornel West has recently cautioned, engaged spirituality is also vulnerable to capitalist assimilation.”

“It’s important to note that offenders cut across generational, racial, and lineage lines.”

“Buddhist institutional and community response to sexual violence, however, has not been done well. Survivors commonly report that the response to their abuse was as harmful, if not more, than the misconduct or abuse itself. Amy and I have found that communities and boards’ concerns to protect their practice, teachers, institutions, and bank accounts takes precedence over empathy and care for victims. In fact, survivors have been routinely subject to denial, indifference, gaslighting, hostility, and retaliation. Buddhist doctrine has been used intentionally and unintentionally to minimize abuse and to silence attempts to name abuse. This has caused survivors intense physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual harm.”

“Carol Merchasin, a lawyer who has worked on a number of Buddhist sexual misconduct cases, has noted that corporate America has done a better job at responding to sexual violence than Buddhist communities.”

“While grant bodies such as the Hemera Foundation are financially supporting the development of preventative trainings and healthy communities, nothing has been offered to survivors. Similarly, not one American Buddhist community we know of has followed the steps recommended by Merchasin.”

“Simply put: American Buddhist convert communities have badly failed survivors.”

-Checklist for Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct in Buddhist Communities-

(from Myoan Grace Schierson (https://www.shogakuzen.org) and attorney Carol Merchasin)

Have a policy that is either separate from your Ethics policy or has a separate section on Sexual misconduct. It should have:

That the policy applies to everyone, including the teacher(s) The conduct that would violate the policy (look at corporations’ policies on SHRM.org, or at universities for examples) Deal with issues of consent Tell people how to report misconduct and make sure that the process is open. When you know about it, no matter how you know about it, you are on notice and you must investigate. Come to no conclusions until the investigation is completed.

Investigate:

But not the teacher. This must be an outsider. Investigations must be thorough and neutral When an allegation is made, respond appropriately. “We take this seriously, we are going to look into it.” Find out the facts about what happened through the 6 Steps to an Investigation 1) Should we investigate? 2) Who should investigate? 3) What should I do first? 4) Who should I talk to? 5) What other things should I look at? 6) How do I come to a conclusion?

Closing out the Investigation:

Communicate the findings to the person who brought the allegations forward Communicate the findings to the person accused Communicate the corrective action if any Communicate to the community

Effective Response

1) Having a policy with a definition of abuse, a process for reporting abuse, and a regular procedure for responding to abuse; 2) Enforcing said policy on abuse by investigating every allegation; 3) Refraining from action (beyond suspending the duties of the accused) until the investigation is completed; 4) Taking appropriate action once the investigation is completed so as to provide accountability; 5) Undertaking reparative steps, including an apology that acknowledges the harm done, maps out appropriate steps going forward, and honors the whistle blowers.

From Carol Merchasin, “Sexual Misconduct and Legal Liability Issues in Buddhist Sanghas” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzoMdW8GEVI&list=PLpxqAk60QqWrlqnlVVWr4IvLyv1GtBw5I&index=2&t=5s

Resources for Sexual Misconduct and Abuse in Buddhist Communities (by Ann Gleig)

“Clergy misconduct includes sexualized behaviour, inappropriate words and innuendo, harassment, threats, physical movement and contact, hugs, kisses, touching, intercourse, emotional and spiritual manipulation. It is a grave injustice toward another person, which violates personal boundaries. At the same time, it violates the entire religious community, because a sacred trust with the congregation has been betrayed.”

From What is Clergy Sexual Misconduct? https://abuseresponseandprevention.ca/clergy-sexual-misconduct/what-is-clergy-sexual-misconduct/

Survivor-Centered Support for Survivors of Abuse

Response Network for survivors of Buddhist Clergy abuse [email protected]

Heartwood Connecting Survivors of Guru and Teacher Abuse https://www.heartwoodcenter.com/meditation/survivors-program/

Survivor-Centered Accounts of Sexual Misconduct/Abuse

Lama Willa Miller, “Breaking the Silence on Sexual Misconduct” Lions Roar, May 19, 2018 https://www.lionsroar.com/breaking-the-silence-on-sexual-misconduct/

Rebecca Jamieson “Woven: Leaving Shambhala,” Entropy, June 10, 2020 https://entropymag.org/woven-leaving-shambhala/

Andrea Winn, Buddhist Project Sunshine https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/bps-welcome-page/

Ann Gleig and Amy Langenberg, “Buddhism and Sexual Misconduct: Centering Survivors,” https://www.shilohproject.blog/sexual-misconduct-and-buddhism-centering-survivors/

Community Resources: Reform and Prevention

Abuse, Sex, and the Sangha: A Series of Healing Conversations https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpxqAk60QqWrlqnlVVWr4IvLyv1GtBw5I

The Sangha Sutra: Zen Center Los Angeles Ethics Practice https://zcla.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/The-Sangha-Sutra-%E2%80%93-ZCLA-Ethics-Practices.pdf

Buddhist Healthy Boundaries Online Courses via Faith Trust Institute https://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/training/buddhist-healthy-boundaries-online-course-spring-2022

Sexual Misconduct, Patriarchy and Sexual Abuse

Lama Rod Owens and Dr. Shante Paradigm Smalls, “Sexual Abuse, Whiteness, and Patriarchy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDY6sgMIi9s&list=PLpxqAk60QqWrlqnlVVWr4IvLyv1GtBw5I&index=4&t=692s

Funie Hsu, “Those Poor Women,” Lion’s Roar https://www.lionsroar.com/those-poor-women/

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Below are resources for dealing with misconduct in Buddhist organizations put together scholar Ann Gleig. The following are quotes from a talk she gave on the subject. See comment section for full talk. “They named their two main concerns as emerging leaders as diversity and inclusion, particularly racial justice, and sexual misconduct with its underlying…

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