Witnesses Speaking Out On Sex abuse. Opportunities? Obstacles?
Getting those of Sai Baba’s ex college boys and staff, with whom we have had contact over time, to speak out publicly has proven difficult.
Indeed, in our own movement of exposure, except around 2000, encouraging Sai Baba’s abuse survivors, no matter what their country or culture, has been hard. At this time, there was unusually intense effort to bring allegations against Sai Baba and his organization to world attention. There were also high hopes – terribly idealistic, in retrospect – that simply getting the major media to investigate, and informing governments, law enforcement agencies, the general public and as many remaining devotees as possible would effect transformation.
Caution In the Primary Witness Process Essential
Of key significance in obtaining cooperation of those making primary allegations circa 2000 was that one of the former devotees was an Indian, with many contacts within Sai Baba circles in India – but added to this fact were his own distinctive qualities. For he was an enormously energetic campaigner, matched outside India by another extraordinary activist, now deceased, who was non-Indian.
The issue of charismatic ability of some activists to inspire abuse survivors to come forth – has been been re-raised by recent developments. These will not be made public yet – but of which more, trustfully, in the next year or so. However, with the utmost emphasis, I wish to suggest a caution. As in the example given above, a highly energetic, articulate, personable individual may indeed have unusual success in obtaining cooperation with abused individuals – e.g., getting sworn testimony, undertakings to travel as court witnesses, sharing of abuse experiences with leading media, law enforcement agencies, governments, UNESCO, academic researchers, etc.
However, my view is that, under a regimen of caution and great sensitivity, it is essential to have well-qualified, experienced abuse professionals involved – as well as those with other professional skills, such as lawyers, social workers, financial advisors, etc. With such constraints, there will, I should think, be some falling away in the numbers ready to testify. When all is said and done, those who are inwardly crumbling may not make the best witnesses, anyway. However, the issue is an ethical one, and should not be up for grabs! Although activists may have the very best intentions, and be far from exercising any coercion, there are nonetheless serious dangers to be avoided. Badly traumatized human beings can be like ticking bombs, where the approach must be made with a great care and skill not possessed by most of us.
Is There A ‘Damaged Goods’ Problem Within India Marriage ‘Markets’?
Indian boys with sexual molestation accounts have shared with networked former Sai Baba devotees a number of difficulties facing them. These relate to the conduct of Sai Baba and some of his personnel such as certain of his teaching staff and students. Suppose Indian abuse survivors were to go public. Are we able to imagine the ramifications within that extraordinarily complex institution – the joint family?
Ex-students and staff of Sai Baba’s institutions who are cooperating with us are acutely aware, for example, that members of their own families are strong devotees of Sai Baba. Some of these live in his ashrams, and are vitally dependent on his largesse, and anxious lest his officials find any fault, real or imagined, which could lead to their casting out. If ex-students and other young male devotees who have come to grief with Sai Baba, or are friends of those who have, were to speak out, what would be their fate, and that of those they love?
Joint Family A Great Institution. Like Any, It Has Its Stresses, Strains
A great many marriages in India are still arranged, where a boy or girl does not, in certain respects, so much marry an individual but rather a complex set of family alliances.
To spend considerable time – as I have had the great fortune to have done in the case of India – in any other culture is often a humbling experience. Customs which vastly differ from one’s own can, on closer inspection, enshrine a great deal of commonsense, adaptive capacity and profundity – all too easily missed by superficial judgement. Therefore, it is not the topic in general of arranged marriages that I allude to in this piece, but a facet of the tradition which can pose – unless those in the culture itself find creative ways around it – a difficulty for many Indian sexual abuse survivors.
Creative Indian Solutions Needed
All round the world, there are those who wish, of course, that ex students and ex staff of Sai Baba’s institutions would go public with what they know to be true, tragic as it is. (I do not say that they will not do so, eventually). However, such an event needs a uniquely Indo-centric approach – with Indian legal, spiritual, emotional and other support systems well in place. Where well-wishers in other countries may be able to assist is in contact with governments to smoothe the path for those Indian individuals or families who, for their own safety and well-being may wish to relocate.
Many who have been abused have real issues of reintegration, of “moving on” (which is a phrase they themselves often use), and living with a sense of betrayal – especially acute in the face of their experience of a guru they supremely loved and trusted.
Legal Situation Can Be Problem-fraught
Any abuse survivors looking for legal remedies need to ensure that they obtain the most competent and sensitive advocacy. To win a monetary settlement and yet lose peace of mind is not worth it – unless an individual is very strong and believes that his sufferings will obtain tangible reforms for other abuse survivors, including the eduction of the wider public, and the breaking down of taboos against speaking out.
Related Reading at: https://barrypittard.wordpress.com