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How to Respond to Sexual Abuse within a Yoga or Spiritual Community - Karen Rain & Jubilee Cooke

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina at the Larry Nassar trial sets an exemplary and groundbreaking precedent by giving platform to over 150 victims to make impact statements. Any victim was allowed to speak whether they were involved in pressing charges or not. She invited victims to "Leave your pain here and go out and go your magnificent things."

This excellent article was written by Karen Rain and Jubilee Cooke, as a result of their experiences within the Ashtanga yoga community and dealings with that community's leader, Pattabhi Jois. Quoting from the article, "the history of Pattabhi Jois's sexual assaults and the repeated cover-ups is extensive, and the response of the Ashtanga yoga community has been inadequate and negligent, at best." It is easy to draw some parallels between the Ashtanga yoga community and Shambhala.

This led the authors to write this article, where they discuss how a community can begin to address and prevent sexual violence. They offer these seven points as a place to start:

1) Seek education from experts outside of the community

"Guidance and training from independent specialists will help a community recognize abuse, respond skillfully, identify shortcomings that allowed the abuse to occur, and develop policies and systems to anticipate and prevent abuse in the future."

2) Learn about sexual violence

"Identify myths around sexual assault. For example, sexual violence is not about sex. It is violence that misuses sex and sexuality to exert power over others: to control, intimidate, or violate."

"Understand grooming. This is the process of establishing an emotional connection or trust with victims in order to lower their inhibition to sexual abuse. The love or greatness that abusers appear to radiate may actually be an indication of the charisma and power they use to groom victims."

3) Talk in a way that supports survivors and does not cause further trauma or perpetuate rape culture

"Stop publicly venerating the sex offender and profiting from association with their name. Making statements and displaying images that glorify the perpetrator can silence and harm suvivors. Victims are less likely to report abuse if members of the community seem unreceptive, and if they praise the offender with statements like, "I still love him. No one is perfect," "I only had wonderful experiences with him," or "We must not forget what a great man he was and all the good he did.""

"Use active constructions that specify the agent of the abuse. For example, rather than saying, "The victim was abused or experienced abuse," say, "The offender sexually abused the victim."

4) Be accountable

"Apologize for being silent, denying, justifying, or enabling abuse." "Members of the Shambhala Buddhist community who are disappointed with the lack of acknowledgement from their leaders regarding their history of sexual abuse have composed an exemplary apology"

"Report abuse you have witnessed."

5) Understand and address shortcomings of the organization

"Look for unhealthy or uneven distributions of power, such as a prestigious leader who cannot be challenged or who is not accountable to anyone, or an institution where reputation is prioritized over member safety and transparency. When performance or reputation is valued over or divorced from the well-being of members, institutional damage control can lead to decades of covering up abuse."

6) Design policies and practices that help prevent further sexual abuse

"Appreciate whistleblowers." "Design clear, accessible policies for how to report abuse, how to hold perpetrators accountable, and how to offer reparations to those harmed."

7) Utilize resources

Karen and Jubilee close by offering a short list of organizations offering education regarding sexual violence and institutional abuse, including the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and FaithTrust Institute, among others.

I included some of the elaborations made by the authors under each point, but the article in full is definitely worth reading and acting upon. Karen and Jubilee make several other strong points throughout. It can be found here:

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