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Buddhadharma : Spri 2013
SPRING 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 25 psychological needs is a profound betrayal of a sacred relationship. Even if a seeker or client seems to invite sex- ual intimacy by, for instance, behaving seductively, the duty of the professional is to protect the person by putting the sanctity of the relationship above all else. This is the accepted ethical stan- dard in both therapy and religion. If Buddhist communities want to honor this standard, it must apply to anyone in a position of authority who is guiding someone on a spiritual path. For the victims, healing begins when they understand they have been betrayed. When I work with such clients, I explore what led them to become involved in an abusive relationship. Victims must come to know what drew them to an abusive person and what compelled them to continue—and possibly encourage—the relationship. Often, victims learn that they were replaying an earlier victim- ization, perhaps abuse they experienced as a child, or that they were trying to fulfill a deep longing related to a lack of emotional or spiritual support early in life. Or they may simply have been enthralled by the prospect of enlighten- ment or salvation. This work is a crucial step; it helps victims develop compassion for themselves and gain the power to protect and take care of themselves in the future. However, it is vital to emphasize that a victim of abuse is in no way respon- sible for the behavior of the abuser. That responsibility lies with the abuser alone, and to suggest otherwise is to continue the abuse. In my work, I sometimes encourage a client to take steps to hold the viola- tor accountable, if doing so would con- tribute to the client’s healing and would not expose the client to further injury. Unfortunately, I have seen far too many instances in spiritual communities in general (and in American Buddhist com- munities in particular) in which, when exposed for sexually or psychologically abusing a member, the leader threatens a lawsuit or publically shames the victim. And often the community stands with the leader and against the person who has been harmed. In this case, the com- munity itself becomes abusive. A victim should be involved in hold- ing the violator accountable only by choice. To suggest, as some have done, that victims are obligated to partici- pate—to help the abuser or the com- munity heal—is to continue the abuse. As members of a spiritual commu- nity, it’s important to consider what you would do if you learned that a member of your sangha felt violated either psy- chologically or sexually by someone in a position of authority. Is there a ten- dency in your community to cast doubt on such accusations and to question the integrity of those who voice them? Are there processes in place to allow for open discussion to determine what hap- pened and, if necessary, hold an abuser accountable? There’s nothing like the present to establish clear ethical princi- ples and processes by which to address sexual or psychological abuse. www.BuddhaGroove.com Mo Mls Gemstones, Bone, Sandalwood, Rosewood, Mother of Pearl, Bodhi Seed, Rudraksha, and more Breathe | Meditate | Awaken