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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2014 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 47 abuse can take different forms: financial, psycho- logical, physical, sexual. Recent headlines have revealed that spiritual communities, including Buddhist ones, are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse by male authority figures. At the same time, all over North America, targets of sexual abuse and institutional betrayal are speaking out with newfound energy, their words and experiences echoing over instant media to resonate with millions of others. More and more people are calling out habitual oppressions, exorcising self-blame, and inspiring others to wake up, saying, “No more! I am worthy of decency and respect.” Like never before, institutions such as colleges, military forces, workplaces, and spiritual organiza- tions are hastening to move forward from patterns of denial. Typical of the new messaging, the White House recently launched a campaign that sets a new normal for group responsibility, making it uncomfortable for us to stand idly by while friends and fellows abuse. We are casting off centuries of myths that normal- ized abuses or at best treated them as an insurmount- able problem. Communities are genuinely asking, what can we do differently? Ordinary worldly knowledge is valuable here. Research shows that when secrecy, minimizing, and rationalizations about abuse are overcome, healing and safety begin. Much progress has been made in recog- nizing the cultural causes and conditions that give rise to abuses of power and of persons, especially those based on sex, race, class, sexual orientation, disability, and ethnicity. The World Health Organization, for example, lists the lionizing of a violent and dominat- ing masculinity, female subordination, and racism as a potent recipe for abuse. Examining which groups are included and which are excluded in teaching, introduction by Pamela rubin governance, and wealth can also tell us where to expect challenges. Are we willing to look at our Buddhist communities for these sorts of well-known habitual patterns and imbalances and then to dis- solve them? A new way forward will also require daring. If we really think about our future, sanghas must not just be collections of individual meditators but also healthy communities that promote inclusion and provide a good ground for the dharma to flour- ish. We cannot afford to ignore the value of all our relations. It is said that dharma and the bonds of dharma communities can only be destroyed from the inside. Abuse, then, is not just a personal “incident”; it is also a great threat to the continu- ity of wisdom traditions. Communities must find confidence to act, shifting toward greater respect and empowerment for women, minorities, youth, and others frequently targeted for abuse. In a com- munity that listens and trusts these voices, would-be abusers cannot operate. How would this kind of community feel? What would happen differently if someone were abu- sive? How much more potential would be realized by its children? The four panelists speaking here are experienced practitioners and leaders who have made a deep commitment to face abuses and work with commu- nity in new ways. It’s a privilege, and a good mark of things to come, that we are able to listen in on their frank conversation as they discuss the prob- lems of abuse and ethical misconduct as Buddhist sanghas work to find a way forward. PAMElA RuBIN is a women’s trauma counselor, lawyer, and consultant on women’s access to justice. She is a member of the Shambhala community. (OPPOSITE)©artemfurman|dreamstime.com